The following letter to the editor was submitted by Columbia Pike resident Nicholas Evans.
I’m not a pro-streetcar zealot. However, living a few blocks from Columbia Pike, I was generally supportive of the streetcar as the best available option to spur growth and alleviate congestion. There was also an element of needing to keep a promise that had been made to developers and local business owners. Nevertheless, I heard and understood the passionate arguments made by many friends of mine in opposition. There are no perfect answers.
With the decision made, we face some new realities. The Columbia Pike area is now a much less attractive place to buy a home or locate a business. More broadly, Arlington has sent a signal to potential residents, businesses and other local governments that it cannot be counted on to hold up its end of the bargain. Governor McAuliffe has been told, “No thanks. Don’t spend transportation money here.” Those are not political statements, but facts. Major policy decisions have consequences.
I take our County Board members at their word that work will continue to develop new transportation options. However, for people who are celebrating, your work is unfinished. Here are your assignments:
- County Board Member Vihstadt: Congratulations. You successfully provided a channel within the system to defeat the streetcar. Throughout your campaigns, you opposed the streetcar because you wanted to do more for “core services”–education and affordable housing. There is no more streetcar to fight so let’s see you keep your promises. I expect results and, no, you are not allowed to pass the buck on the school overcrowding issue. Education is as core as it gets. Time to get to work.
- To County Board Member Garvey: You have repeatedly suggested that “money is money” and that there truly wasn’t dedicated money for the streetcar. This was a very effective argument–should we be building this when we have so many other needs? Although I might be disappointed about the streetcar, I am very excited that we now have more money to spend in other areas requiring investment. I would imagine you have some bold and potentially expensive proposals that are ready to go. I look forward to evaluating them.
- To Neighbors in South Arlington Opposed to the Streetcar: No whining. If development continues along the Pike, you can’t complain about vehicles parked in front of your house and the Pike itself turning into a parking lot choked with all those new drivers. On the flip side, if development stagnates or regresses, no complaining about the lack of restaurants, unsafe streets or crumbling infrastructure.
- To Neighbors in North Arlington Opposed to the Streetcar: Same as your South Arlington allies. No whining. I’m assuming that the inflammatory stuff I’ve read about North Arlington taxpayers not wanting to spend money in South Arlington is fiction. I have many good friends north of 50 who have opposed this project and I know that’s not their view. Regardless, North Arlington residents won’t feel the same congestion impact except for periodic trips to Dick’s to buy a new set of cleats for their kids. However, if development along the Pike stalls, the tax base won’t broaden. This will be exacerbated as it becomes harder to lure businesses to any part of Arlington–most people won’t locate in a jurisdiction that can’t be trusted to keep its word. As a result, you all will be on the hook to fund an even greater share of the proposals coming from Board Members Vihstadt and Garvey. No whining about any tax hikes.
Finally, there is one team project for everyone identified above. You will continue to be vigilant about spending countywide. There have been plenty of “vanity projects” in my 13 years here and many of you were silent on all of them. I assume at a minimum that you all strongly oppose the proposal to establish a second Metro line through North Arlington. From your perspective, it would seem to be an enormous expense that we cannot afford. I’ll look forward to seeing strong resistance should that project gain momentum. More broadly, I trust that you will be consistent rather than selective in how high you set the bar for all county spending.
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A new superhero will be hitting the streets and bars of Clarendon Saturday night.
“SoberWoman” is described as the “witty better half” of SoberMan (left), the anti-DUI superhero who tried to save Clarendon bargoers from poor post-drinking decision making last December.
“SoberWoman will engage with patrons at Arlington area restaurants and quiz them on how they plan to get home after partying,” according to a press release. “She will award prizes to those who have made advanced plans to get home safely by not drinking and driving. SoberWoman will pose for pictures and encourage bar-goers to share photos and her mission via social media, using hashtag #SoberWoman.”
SoberWoman is planning on stopping by Whitlow’s on Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd), Clarendon Grill (1101 N. Highland Street) and Spider Kelly’s (3181 Wilson Blvd) between 10:00 p.m. and midnight on Saturday. She will be joined by Arlington County Police Department Captain Kamran Afzal and Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.
The arrival of SoberWoman should attract some attention. She will “arrive in a police motorcade and use a P.A. system to announce her mission at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Filmore St., adjacent to Whitlow’s,” according to the press release. “She will repeat her police ‘sirens and lights’ arrival at the following bars before engaging bar-goers inside”
Organizers say SoberWoman’s superpowers — namely, “continued vigilance and heightened awareness about drinking and driving” — are needed because drunk driving fatalities have been on the rise in Virginia over the last two years.
All but one inbound lane is closed on the bridge due to the wreck, which occurred just before 4:00 p.m.
D.C. police are handling the incident. The department’s Twitter account said there’s no estimated time for when all lanes will reopen.
Someone smashed a half dozen car windows to steal some pocket change last week.
The crime happened overnight in the North Rosslyn area, according to police. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
LARCENY FROM AUTO/DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY (SERIES), 141112016-021, 1600 BLOCK N COLONIAL TERRACE, Sometime between 1700 hours on 11/11/14 and 0720 hours on 11/12/14, an unknown subject(s) smashed the front passenger windows of six vehicles and stole loose change. There are no witnesses and there is no suspect information at this time.
The rest of the weekly crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
AAA Thanksgiving Travel Forecast — About 1.1 million Washington area residents will travel 50 more more miles this Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s up 3.1 percent over 2013. About 90 percent of those travelers will journey to grandma’s house via automobile, AAA says. The lowest gas prices since Dec. 2010 are helping to drive some additional travel this year. [Reston Now]
What’s Next for the Pike? — Now that the streetcar is dead, articulated buses may be next for Columbia Pike. But that would require reinforcing the roadway and building a new bus depot. [Greater Greater Washington]
Beyer Joins ‘New Democrat Coalition’ — Arlington’s newly-elected representative in Congress, Don Beyer, has joined the House New Democrat Coalition, a group of pro-growth Democrats. [Blue Virginia]
Moran Laments Loss of Earmarks — Outgoing Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says earmarks, while demonized by the media and some politicians, actually helped the legislative process. The loss of earmarks has slowed Congress to a crawl, Moran said. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Crystal City and Rosslyn were big winners at the NAIOP Northern Virginia commercial real estate development awards yesterday.
Projects and transactions in the two Arlington communities accounted for nearly a third of the 25 awards given out by the organization last night. Adding to Arlington’s haul was one award for a building in Clarendon.
The Arlington winners included:
- Monument View in Crystal City — Best Real Estate Transaction – Sale, Award of Merit
- 1776 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn — Best Real Estate Transaction – Sale, Award of Excellence
- CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn — Best Real Estate Transaction – Lease, Award of Merit
- WeWork in Crystal City – Best Real Estate Transaction – Lease, Award of Excellence
- Crystal Tech Fund in Crystal City — Best Interiors 0-14,999 SF, Award of Excellence
- Vornado/Charles E. Smith DesignLab in Crystal City — Best Project Marketing, Award of Excellence
- Presidential Towers in Crystal City — Best Building Common Area, Award of Merit
- 3001 & 3003 Washington Boulevard in Clarendon — Best Speculative Office Building 7 to 14 Stories, Award of Excellence
- 1812 North Moore Street in Rosslyn — Best Speculative Office Building 15 Stories and Above, Award of Merit
Local political blogger and Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett, who correctly predicted that the election of John Vihstadt would doom Arlington’s streetcar project, recently analyzed the Nov. 4 County Board election on the public access program Inside Scoop Virginia.
Tribbett placed the blame for Democrat Alan Howze’s stunning defeat squarely on the shoulders of the County Board itself and its communication “meltdowns.”
“The Arlington County Board is insular, arrogant, doesn’t listen well to the community, insults people when they disagree with them,” Tribbett said.
In addition to discussing the role the streetcar, the million dollar bus stop and other spending projects played in stoking voter discontentment, he examined the precinct-by-precinct crossover vote — those who voted for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but also voted for independent John Vihstadt.
The smallest crossover vote margin in a precinct was 28 percent, Tribbett said. The largest was 82 percent, in the Arlington Forest precinct, which has objected to a plan to build affordable housing on top of the neighborhood’s Lubber Run Community Center.
Tribbett also blasted the belief of some Democrats that John Vihstadt “tricked” voters by running as an independent and not as a Republican.
“Arlington County has just been full of debacles recently. You can see how Democrats are upset at the local level and making conscientious decisions,” he said. “This is where the Arlington County Board is really messing up. These are extremely well-educated voters. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not mistakenly voting for the Republican. And [Democratic leaders] keep expecting them to turn around as if it’s a mistake.”
“[It's] in the heart of the most liberal area of Northern Virginia… the whole thing in Arlington has just been breathtaking,” Tribbett concluded.
Board to Consider ‘Technology Zone’ Expansion — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved a motion to advertise changes to its program of giving tax breaks to small technology firms. Possible changes include expanding the “technology zones” in which businesses are eligible for the program to instead cover the entire county. The Board will vote on the changes in December. [Arlington County]
Werth Gnome Made of Cans at DCA — A huge Jayson Werth garden gnome sculpture made of cans is one such can creation on display at Reagan National Airport. Made for the annual “Canstruction” competition, which runs through Nov. 22, the sculptures will benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. [DCist]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six Arlington Public Schools students have placed first in a state-wide video contest. They created a 30-second video for the annual Virginia School Boards Association competition. [Arlington Public Schools]
Shooting Suspect Arrested in Arlington — One of the two suspects in the shooting of two teenagers in Woodbridge was arrested Tuesday by Arlington County Police, following a traffic stop on N. George Mason Drive. [WNEW]
Columnist: Streetcar’s Death Will Widen Class Divisions — Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney opines that the decision to kill the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system will “probably deepen” class and racial divisions in Arlington. “In effect, Arlington just told its least prosperous residents: ‘You want streetcars to upgrade your neighborhoods? Too expensive. Keep riding the bus.’” McCartney writes. [Washington Post]
(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) The Doubletree hotel at 300 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City was evacuated this afternoon due to a large gas leak.
The gas leak was said to be in the hotel’s parking garage. Firefighters at the scene reported strong odor of natural gas inside and outside the hotel. Guests and employees were evacuated from the hotel.
An Arlington County hazmat team and Washington Gas crews responded to the scene. Police shut down down Army Navy Drive between Eads and 12th Streets to accommodate the large emergency response.
Firefighters and gas company crews managed to shut off the gas after about an hour. Army Navy Drive reopened just after 5:30, and people are being allowed back into the hotel.
No injuries have been reported.
This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Mason, a rescue dog that “likes other dogs,” but loves people.
Here’s what owner Kristina had to say:
My name is Mason! I was named after George Mason and am a 4-year-old rescue from a shelter in West Virginia. I think I am a Belgian Shepherd mix, but others tell me that I am also part Akita. I’m not really sure — but I do know that I’m cute!
I like other dogs… but I love people. My favorite activity is relaxing in my yard and looking at the squirrels and occasional deer that walk past my fence. I try to jump over the fence to play with the deer but my large torso won’t quite make it over the top of the fence, so just I watch standing on my two hind legs.
I love to travel and have a favorite toy that I carry around everywhere. I am not easily offended and can do several tricks (one of which is an army crawl), but my favorite trick is taking naps all day long. I also love to sit inside my house and bark when packages are delivered by strangers.
Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet.
Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care, the winner of three Angie’s List Super Service Awards and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year, provides professional dog walking and pet sitting services in Arlington and Northern Virginia.
After years of planning, community meetings and debate, Arlington’s planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system was scuttled yesterday following a somber press conference and brief vote.
County Board Chair and streetcar supporter Jay Fisette said the voters had spoken in their election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt, and “political realities” meant that the streetcar project must be derailed.
Do you agree with the decision?
LWV to Address Pike Changes — Scheduled well before yesterday’s news that the county’s streetcar project is being canceled, the League of Women Voters tonight will hold a forum entitled “Columbia Pike in Transition.” The forum will explore the future of the Columbia Pike corridor. [InsideNova]
Board Approves Affordable Housing Loan — The Arlington County Board has approved a $8.5 million loan for developer AHC Inc. to purchase the Spectrum Apartments at 5055 S. Chesterfield Road and convert 80 market-rate apartments to committed affordable units. [Arlington County]
Va. Liquor Price Hike — The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has approved a price hike for liquor that’s expected to raise an extra $5.4 million for the state coffers. [Washington Business Journal]
McLean Stabbing Victims Recovering — Arlington law firm Bean, Kinney & Korman says its managing shareholder, Leo Fisher, and his wife are recovering from a brutal stabbing in their McLean home. “There has been universal concern for the welfare of Leo and Sue, and we are thankful to be able to assure everyone that they are recovering steadily,” the firm said in a statement yesterday. Meanwhile, new details have been revealed about the hours-long “torture session” former Bean Kinney attorney Alecia Schmuhl and her husband Andrew allegedly put Fischer and his wife through on Nov. 9. [Washington Post]
Rip Sullivan Joins Bean Kinney — Recently-elected House of Delegates member Rip Sullivan has joined the Courthouse-based law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman, the firm announced yesterday. [Bean, Kinney & Korman]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
The wallet went missing between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, on the 2600 block of Jefferson Davis Highway, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm. Initial reports suggest police were searching for clues in the Holiday Inn hotel at 2650 Jefferson Davis Highway.
(An earlier version of this story cited incorrect information regarding the timing of the wallet going missing.)
There was little additional information available about the incident. Malcolm was unable to provide the name of the congresswoman or the circumstances surrounding how the wallet went missing.
“We can confirm that a congresswoman’s was possibly stolen,” he told ARLnow.com “We notified U.S. Capitol Police.”
U.S. Capitol Police have thus far not responded to a request for more information.
Photo via Google Maps
Update at 3:55 p.m. — The County Board voted 4-1 in favor of Fisette’s motion to stop the streetcar project. The dissenting vote was Walter Tejada, who said the streetcar would have reduced congestion and helped the Columbia Pike’s revitalization. “Turning away from a modern streetcar system is a dramatic step backwards,” Tejada said. “Arlington’s credibility in the region will now be adversely affected.”
“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”
Fisette will make it official with a motion at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. Tejada is said to oppose canceling the project and may vote against Fisette’s motion.
The streetcar project was to be funded by commercial transportation revenue, along with funding from the state and Fairfax County, which was to benefit from the Pike streetcar running to the Skyline area.
Fisette said the county will instead explore options for improving bus service on Columbia Pike. The transitway between Crystal City and Alexandria will continue to operate and be developed, but will be served only by buses. Existing streetcar contracts — like the $26 million engineering contract awarded in September — will be “wound down” as quickly as possible.
Fisette acknowledged that many business owners and residents along Columbia Pike will be disappointed by the streetcar project’s cancellation.
“There are those who moved there or developed in anticipation of the streetcar,” Fisette said. “I will say that we are committed and remain committed to the Columbia Pike corridor. We will continue to work towards the realization of that vision [of high quality, mixed use development] in a modified form, and that is the commitment of this Board. We will enhance the bus system to the extent possible.”
Fisette said that he believes a streetcar still makes sense on Columbia Pike, as it would increase transit capacity and spur economic development, adding that he’s “proud” of his vote for it. The decision to kill the project was made after the election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, which “sent a powerful message to the Board.”
“We cannot ignore the political realities… this was not a formal referendum, but I believe it serves as a proxy,” Fisette said. “Right now the level of discord is such that I haven’t seen for awhile. It keeps us from addressing other pressing needs in the community.”
Fisette said county staff and the county manager were “caught flat-footed” by organized opposition to the streetcar, which materialized in “the past year or so.” Efforts to communicate the streetcar’s benefits were ineffective, he said.
The cancellation is an improbable victory for Vihstadt and his anti-streetcar ally on the Board, Libby Garvey. Together, they have been pushing the county to cancel the streetcar project and instead work to implement enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike.
Garvey was in attendance at Fisette’s press conference (which can be viewed online) and said afterwards that Fisette’s announcement “was a complete surprise.” Hynes was at an event this morning and “gave a ringing endorsement” of the streetcar, Garvey said.
“I’m delighted,” Garvey said. When asked about the impact the decision will have on businesses and residents who moved to the area in anticipation of the streetcar, she said “people need to understand that we will get a bus rapid transit system going. It will do everything the streetcar could and more. They’re going to be just fine.”
The streetcar plan for Columbia Pike was developed over nearly a decade of community meetings and deliberations and approved in 2006. Its backers have consistently said that consensus was behind the streetcar and it’s what the community wanted, but Fisette conceded that the feeling around the county has changed.
“The D.C. streetcar was a gift for those of us who oppose the streetcar,” Garvey said.
Placing behind Arlington, in order, was: Madison, Wisc.; Lincoln, Neb.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Denver, Colo.; Seattle, Wash.; and Austin, Texas. Washington, D.C. ranked No. 14.
“Arlington, Virginia, is the best city for young entrepreneurs with a high percentage of educated young people, the highest per capita income in the nation and access to businesses in the Washington, D.C., area,” the website wrote. ” Nearly 28% of the city’s residents are 25 to 34 years old, and at least 74% of all residents over 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — both of these figures are the highest in the nation”