The following letter to the editor was submitted by Henry Weiss, a rising junior at Washington-Lee High School who “chose to research Arlington’s affordable/subsidized housing crisis” as a class project this past school year.
Arlington’s subsidized housing stock is rapidly disappearing, and with it, its diversity.
This is an indisputable fact. Whether that is cause for concern is debatable, but I am of the opinion, as is the County Board, that it is. While I cannot speak for the members of the board, I believe this because I think that it is the responsibility of all prosperous jurisdictions to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from and contribute to that prosperity, no matter their background.
The County Board has already taken a few steps in the direction of preserving and recreating that subsidized housing stock, and I applaud them for that. But the county could still be doing much more.
First, Arlington and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing should stop negotiating with developers to include subsidized housing in individual projects, and simply institute inclusionary zoning ordinances, requiring new developers to set aside a certain percent of their units for low income individuals.
Because the location of most of the larger residential development in the county overlaps with the locations of Arlington’s newest subsidized housing projects (in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Ballston and on Columbia Pike), creating inclusionary zoning laws will simply codify and institute on a larger scale what has already been the policy of the county while eliminating the costs of that policy for taxpayers. Inclusionary zoning laws in Arlington would also be a relatively quick way to recreate subsidized housing in the areas of the county that have lost the most of it in recent years.
The second step Arlington should take is to encourage the integration of its residential neighborhoods, probably through the encouragement of the construction of low rise apartments. Many of Arlington’s middle class neighborhoods, such as Penrose, Waverly Hills, Columbia Forest and Westover among others have managed to preserve their beauty and safe environments while maintaining subsidized and affordable housing, and these communities should be a model for others in the county.
Most of the adverse effects of subsidized and affordable housing occur when that housing is concentrated in one area and its residents are cut off from economic and educational opportunities. But in a county like Arlington, where the economy and schools are thriving, proper placement of subsidized housing in middle class neighborhoods will prevent these effects from being felt.
To help residents of less integrated neighborhoods feel more comfortable with this plan, Arlington should allow the civic associations of those less diverse neighborhoods to submit plans to bring more subsidized units to their communities in the relatively near future. The county should give civic associations plenty of chances to submit satisfactory plans before taking charge of planning for the diversification of that neighborhood.
In my opinion, this would be the best way to preserve and grow the fast disappearing pool of subsidized housing and diversity in Arlington. I am sure that many people will find faults in this plan, and others may draw up alternative plans. But one thing is certain: the County Board needs to come up with a comprehensive plan to preserve and recreate the subsidized housing they claim to support, and they need to do it quickly.
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The sites — Rosslyn Highlands Park/Fire Station 10 (1559 Wilson Blvd); Courthouse Square and Plaza; land adjacent to Lee Gardens at the intersection of Fairfax Drive and Arlington Blvd; and Gables North Rolfe Street (1307 N. Rolfe Street) — were introduced by County Manager Barbara Donnellan yesterday when she presented her proposed 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the County Board.
The sites are already in the planning process, Donnellan told the Board, and the county is exploring their potential for affordable housing during said process. Providing more affordable housing has long been a priority for many of the Board’s elected members.
In addition, Donnellan identified three sites as potential places for new school construction. Those locations include Wilson School, which had already been earmarked for a potential new school, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and the Arlington Career Center/Fenwick Center site at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive.
“Affordable housing and schools are two of our County’s highest priorities, and the County Board has emphasized its commitment to the concept of using Public Land for Public Good,” Donnellan said in a press release. “We need to do a lot more analysis, but this is a good start for finding ways to use public land to achieve important community goals.”
Four other sites are considered “Tier 2″ potential places for affordable housing — they are not in the CIP for redevelopment but they have been identified as areas where affordable housing development could be feasible. Those sites are Lubber Run Park, which one interfaith community group has also identified as having potential for affordable housing; Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway; land adjacent to Jennie Dean Park on Four Mile Run near Shirlington; and the Edison Complex, adjacent to Virginia Hospital Center.
The county and Arlington Public Schools analyzed all 678 parcels of publicly-owned land in the county to develop the final list of 11 sites. Donnellan is recommending each of the sites be considered for development within the next 10 years.
Photo via Google Maps
The Arlington County Board approved a $16.5 million loan to affordable housing developer AHC on Saturday to purchase a Columbia Pike apartment building.
The loan, which comes from the county’s dedicated Affordable Housing Investment Fund, will allow AHC to purchase the Serrano Apartments at 5535 Columbia Pike, which are currently owned by Carmel Partners.
The apartment building, in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood, has 280 units, 239 of which are currently considered affordable. The loan allows AHC to purchase the building and keep 196 units in the building as dedicated affordable housing for the next 60 years. The remainder will be offered at a market rate.
AHC will also purchase the 39,500 square feet of vacant land fronting the Pike, which Carmel has an application to subdivide, according to the county’s press release. That land could be developed into a complex with about 80 apartment units, according to the Columbia Pike Form Based Code.
“The County Board has committed to preserving affordable housing along Columbia Pike,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release. “This loan to AHC is in keeping with our commitment. These units now will remain affordable for generations of Arlingtonians — and help preserve the Pike’s rich diversity as it is redeveloped into a more transit-oriented, walkable ‘Main Street.’”
Current tenants will not be displaced with the ownership change, the county said. The purchase follows through on the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which calls for keeping 6,200 of the current affordable market-rate apartments affordable as the Pike develops and creating 400 new units affordable to families at 80 percent of the area median income on the western portion of the Pike.
Photo via Bozzuto
Lubber Run Neighbors Rally Against Housing Proposal — Those who live around the Lubber Run Community Center showed up to the Saturday Arlington County Board meeting to rally against a proposal to use the public land around the community center for affordable housing or a new school. The residents also asked the Board to approve a renovation to the community center. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves Expanded ‘Technology Zones’ — The County Board on Saturday approved an expansion of its program of reduced business license taxes for technology businesses in certain “technology zones.” About 5-10 businesses per year are expected to qualify for the tax incentives. [Arlington County]
Avg. Single Family Home Price Tops $900,000 — The average sale price of a single family home in Arlington hit $913,677 in March. That’s up 11.7 percent year-over-year. The average townhouse sale price, meanwhile, was $449,202 and the average condo was $515,000. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Educators Honored — Two Arlington educators, Glebe Elementary principal Jamie Borg and Kenmore Middle School teacher Cassidy Nolen, are among the recipients of the Washington Post’s annual education awards. [Washington Post]
Air Force Research Office to Remain in Arlington — After considering a move to Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force has decided to keep its Office of Scientific Research in Arlington. The decision was made after Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Jim Moran, pressed the Air Force to abandon the relocation proposal. The office employs about 170 people. [PR Newswire, Dayton Business Journal]
Arlington Runner Wins Marine Corp 17.75K – Arlington’s Kelly Swain was the top female finisher at the Marine Corps 17.75K race in Prince William County over the weekend. Swain, 28, finished the 11.03 mile event in 1:14:02. The 17.75K is a precursor to the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington. The sold-out race will take place this year on Oct. 26. [Army Times]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonderman
Najarian Tries to Get on Ballot — Democratic candidate for Congress Nancy Najarian is trying to get on the ballot after authorities said she did not submit enough valid signatures to qualify. [Blue Virginia]
Winter Shelter Closes for the Season — Arlington’s emergency winter homeless shelter has closed for the season. More than 450 individuals stayed at least one night at the shelter over the past five months. The emergency winter shelter will reopen on Nov. 1. The county’s new year-round homeless shelter is not expected to open until some point next winter. [InsideNoVa]
Library Plans Bicycle Tour — Arlington Public Library’s seventh annual Tour des Bibliothèques is scheduled from the morning of Saturday, April 19. The event brings library staff and community members on a bicycle tour of seven Arlington library locations. [Arlington Public Library]
Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment – Arlington makes a significant investment in affordable housing compared to some of its neighbors. Arlington County devotes 5.2 percent of its budget to affordable housing, compared to 0.9 percent for Alexandria and 1.3 percent for Fairfax County. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Independent Arlington County Board candidate Stephen W.C. Holbrook doesn’t like a plan to use public land for affordable housing, and made his opinions known in a strongly-worded email to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
Holbrook wrote the email, a copy of which was also sent to ARLnow.com, following his participation last week in a forum for County Board candidates organized by the faith-based social justice group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE).
The forum, held Thursday at St. John’s Baptist Church on Columbia Pike, was intended “to call on the four candidates in the April 8 special election for County Board to commit to a bold a bold new plan for using public land to develop 1,000-1,500 units of affordable housing on a 3-5-year timetable for families earning $30,000-$50,000 a year,” according to VOICE, which collected more than 10,000 petition signatures for the plan.
In his letter to Dolan, Holbrook, a retired FBI agent, let it be known that he thought the plan was not in keeping with church teachings.
“GOD’S house is a place to talk to your GOD and not a place to gather people to form a plan to lay out how you will steal from other people,” Holbrook wrote. “I am a Catholic and that meeting in that church was the first time I ever went into a church and came out feeling dirty and that there was evil in that church. I thought that God was going to send down a lighting bolt unto those church leaders and their people and I didn’t want to be around them.”
“It took me two days and several baths to get the smell of greed and sin off of me but the other people there will go to hell for what they do and their church leaders are to blame,” Holbrook continued.
Asked by ARLnow.com to clarify his remarks, Holbrook suggested that those who vote for his three opponents – who support the creation of additional affordable housing — will be guity of theft by association.
“The voters that will go to HELL are the ones that trade their vote for stolen assets and those assets did belong to a person and or group of people that collectively did not want those assets given away,” he said via email. “GOD gave us all the TEN COMMANDMENTS. One of those Commandments was ‘Thou shall not steal.’ When you take assets for example from a group of people that did not want to give those assets away… [those] who gave their votes for them are just as guilty for receiving those stolen assets as the person that stole those assets.”
In his letter to Dolan, Holbrook requests that Catholic churches in Arlington read to its congregants and employees a speech he had prepared for the VOICE event but was not given the opportunity to read. That speech also took aim at the Arlington Education Association — Holbrook blames the teachers group for the county’s increased spending on public schools, which he opposes.
“The teachers’ union has already bitten the forbidden apple by showing their willingness to take unearned taxpayers’ assets for their vote for the Democratic candidate here and they will burn in Hell for their sinful deeds,” he writes.
The full prepared speech, after the jump.
Restaurateurs Eye Rosslyn — Rosslyn has been long neglected in the restaurant and bar department, primarily because it has been viewed as a place where only fast casual lunch places can be successful. That may be changing thanks to Heavy Seas Alehouse, which has been doing boffo beer and dinner business since it opened last month. [Washington City Paper]
Streetcar Battles Continue — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey continued her one-woman campaign against the Columbia Pike streetcar from the County Board dais last week. Garvey used her time in the County Board meeting to do a slideshow of streetcar systems that have well-exceeded their budget or which have performed poorly in wintery weather. Meanwhile, the streetcar remains the central issue in April’s County Board special election. [InsideNoVa, Greater Greater Washington]
Tribute to Terry Holzheimer — Acting Director of Arlington Economic Development Cindy Richmond has penned a tribute to her former boss, Terry Holzheimer, who died of a sudden heart attack on March 1. [Arlington Economic Development]
Grand Opening for Arlington Mill Residences — A grand opening ceremony will be held tonight from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for the Arlington Mill Residences, at 901 S. Dinwiddie Street. The four story, 122-unit apartment complex, located next to the new Arlington Mill Community Center, is 100 percent committed affordable. There was a long waiting list for those hoping to live in one of the units.
Arlington Woman on Jeopardy Tonight – Arlington resident Nancy Akerman, who works as a science policy fellow, will compete on Jeopardy tonight. The game show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7).
So Far So Good for Ben’s — The day after the new Ben’s Chili Bowl opened at 1725 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, the line stretched to the back of the restaurant throughout the afternoon. But, the Washington City Paper asks, does the new restaurant capture the authenticity of the U Street original? [Washington City Paper]
Board Candidates on Affordable Housing — The Alliance for Housing Solutions has released the answers to an affordable housing questionnaire sent to the four candidates for Arlington County Board. Each candidate calls affordable housing a “top” or “very high” priority except independent Stephen W.C. Holbrook, who writes “government must stay out of the affordable housing.” [Alliance for Housing Solutions]
Fmr. McD’s Exec Named Elevation CEO — Rick Altizer, a former McDonald’s executive, has been named the new CEO of Elevation Burger. The Arlington-based company currently has 32 locations worldwide and hopes to open about 20 more by the end of the year. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Defends CIP PR Spending — Arlington Public Schools is spending $169,000 during Fiscal Year 2014 on a public relations contractor as part of its Capital Improvement Plan process. In a memo to the school board, John Chadwick, the assistant superintendent of Facilities and Operations, argues that his department “would be overwhelmed by the amount of interaction demanded by our community” during the CIP process if it wasn’t for the PR help. [PDF]
Flickr pool photo by Rpcann
Greens Skeptical of Affordable Housing Task Force — A task force appointed by Arlington County to conduct a three-year study of affordable housing issues is being criticized by the Arlington Green Party, which believes the county isn’t doing enough on affordable housing. “Yet another example of government appointing yet another task force and coming up with recommendations not likely to be implemented, nor to be effective in any event, if even implemented,” the party is quoted as saying. [Sun Gazette]
Road Closures for Four Courts Four Miler — The annual Four Courts Four Miler race will take place Saturday morning and will close down large portions of Wilson Blvd and northbound Route 110. [Arlington County]
Sickles Drops Out of Congressional Race — Democrat Del. Mark Sickles, who represents part of southern Fairfax County, has dropped out of the crowded field of candidates vying to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran in Congress. Sickles said he decided to drop out after performing poorly in a survey of likely voters. [Falls Church News-Press]
Richmond Named Acting AED Director — Cynthia Richmond has been named the acting director of Arlington Economic Development following the untimely death of Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died of a sudden heart attack over the weekend. Richmond was serving as the deputy director of AED. Arlington County plans to begin a recruitment process to find a permanent director for AED soon. [Arlington County]
FBI Cracking Down on Corruption in N. Va. — The FBI has created a task force to investigate public corruption in Northern Virginia. Public corruption is the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority” at the moment and the agency has “cases in all categories in Northern Virginia.” [Loudoun Times]
Man Sentenced in $30 Million Fraud Scheme — A Florida man has been sentenced in a $30 million scheme that defrauded NASA into awarding contracts on false pretenses. Michael Dunkel, 60, was awarded contracts by NASA intended for minority-owned businesses by claiming he was an employee of an Arlington company supposedly run by a woman of Portuguese descent. Dunkel in turn paid kickbacks to the company. [Associated Press, U.S. Justice Department]
APAH to Purchase Apartment Building — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is purchasing the Arna Valley View apartments near Glebe Road and I-395. The purchase will allow 101 apartments to remain as committed affordable housing for at least the next 60 years. [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising for Pike Documentary Book — Photographer Lloyd Wolf is raising money to print a book based on photos taken by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project. [GoFundMe]
Photo courtesy Kimberly Suiters/All News 99.1 WNEW
Arlington County, via a complicated real estate transaction, is seeking to acquire the sprawling Ballston Park apartments on the 300 block of N. Glebe Road.
The 20-acre, 52-building complex has 513 apartments, 233 of which are committed affordable to those making 60 percent or less of the area median income. If the county’s purchase were to go through, the county would increase the number of units committed as affordable and keep them affordable for another 75 years.
The complex is expected to sell for around $100 million, but the net cost to the Arlington — from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund — is not expected to exceed $16 million. That’s because the county already has a partial stake in the apartments, and because the county is only providing 25 percent of the sale price. The rest is being supplied by affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc., through loans.
The terms of the proposed sale specify that the county will own the title to the apartment complex, but will grant AHC a 75-year ground lease and will help provide AHC with partial financing. Barring the sale, the existing affordable units would expire in 2027 and become market rate units.
“The County is taking this action in order to preserve the Ballston Park community – an important affordable housing asset,” said Arlington County Housing Director David Cristeal. “We believe that through this transaction, the County can preserve long term affordability and acquire a historically valuable asset for less than an estimated $70,000 per unit.”
“This transaction offers the opportunity to not only to extend the duration of current affordable units but to increase the number of affordable units within the property, obtain greater control over the long-term future use and development of the property and receive residual income in the form of lease payments for 75 years,” Cristeal continued.
The sale was quietly approved by the County Board at the end of its Tuesday, Jan. 28 meeting. The item was not originally on the Board’s public agenda. The sale agreement provided by the Board caps the total sale price at no more than $105 million.
Photo via Google Maps
High Demand for Affordable Housing — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing received more than 3,000 applications for 122 apartments at its new Arlington Mill Residences building on Columbia Pike. Demand for affordable housing is high. Arlington lost about 6,000 residents earning between $50-75k per year from 2000 to 2012, while gaining about 25,000 households that earn more than $200k. [Washington Post]
Remembering Classic Arlington Businesses — Local writer and historian Charlie Clark recently held a talk to recall the former mom-and-pop businesses and restaurants that have closed as a result of Arlington’s “creative destruction.” Among the restaurants remembered were the Buckaroo Steakhouse on Lee Highway, Speedy Gonzales Tex-Mex restaurant in Ballston, and Major Bo’s Chicken Delight. [Sun Gazette]
Charlotte Eyes Crystal City As Development Model – The city of Charlotte, N.C. is hoping to boost development around its airport. One developer has eyed Crystal City as a possible model, considering a “complex similar to Crystal City, a collection of apartment buildings, hotels, offices and shops next to Reagan National Airport.” [Charlotte Observer]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
‘The Springs’ Affordable Apartment Complex Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved “The Springs,” a 104-unit affordable apartment complex in the Buckingham neighborhood. The $38 million project was partially funded with a $7.82 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. [Arlington County]
Don Beyer to Run for Moran’s Seat — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer, co-owner of the local car dealership chain, says he will enter the race for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Beyer, a Democrat, recently served as a U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. [Washington Post]
Board Puts Kibosh on School Tree Removal -- The County Board has ordered Arlington Public Schools to halt the removal of trees at Ashlawn Elementary School ahead of a planned addition to the school. The order follows a public outcry about the tree removal, which was initially authorized by county staff but without a public process. ““We cannot let this happen again . we cannot allow trees to be chopped down,” Board member Walter Tejada is quoted as saying. “This is a problem.” [Sun Gazette]
Burst Pipe at Uncle Julio’s — A pipe burst at Uncle Julio’s in Ballston over the weekend, sending water “pouring” from the ceiling. No word on any damage to the restaurant. [Twitter]
Edelman to Talk at Library — Best-selling author and financial adviser Ric Edelman will discuss his book “The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs” at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) in March. The talk will take place from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
County planning staff is recommending the Board approve the site plan amendment, rezoning and General Land Use Plan amendment required to increase the housing density from 27 garden-style units on the site to a 104-unit mid-rise building.
The proposal, in the Buckingham neighborhood on the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and Thomas Street, calls for two levels of underground parking with 110 total spaces and more than 5,000 square feet of office space, which will serve as the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) new office.
“The proposed General Land Use plan amendment, rezoning and site plan follows the guidance in, and implements the vision of, the North Quincy Street Plan Addendum for this particular site and adheres to good urban design practice,” the staff report states. “The siting and design of the proposed apartment building is sensitive to the transitional nature of the site, and 71 net new committed affordable housing units are being created within walking distance to a Metro station.”
According to the staff report, the size of the building allows for a transition from the high-rises of Ballston to the north to the townhouses and small apartment buildings to the south. In addition, the proposal would widen the existing sidewalks on Carlin Springs Road and Thomas street from 4-5 feet wide to 13 feet wide on Carlin Springs and 11 feet wide on Thomas Street.
Of the 104 units, 98 are projected to be committed affordable housing, and 80 of those affordable units will be two- or three-bedroom apartments intended for families. The developer also agreed to negotiate a public access easement adjacent to the building intended for a future mid-block park.
The Buckingham Civic Association raised some opposition during community meetings, according to the staff report, claiming the redevelopment is inconsistent with the Buckingham Neighborhood Conservation Plan.
Members of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association will meet with affordable housing developer AHC tonight to discuss their concerns about plans to replace the Berkeley apartment complex.
The Berkeley, at 2910 S. Glebe Road, currently consists of 137 apartments, 110 of which are committed affordable units. AHC plans to replace the aging four-story complex with two new five-story-apartment buildings, consisting of 287 units, including 171 affordable units, and 264 parking spaces.
In its newsletter, ARCA says it is “concerned” about the project’s density and height. Among the listed concerns:
“It violates the existing RA8-18 zoning, which allows 4 stories. RA8-18 zoning says the housing should look like townhouses or garden apartments; 5 stories does neither. For comparison, the adjacent townhouses at Arlington Ridge Rd. & Glebe Rd are zoned RA8-18.”
“It is not consistent with the ’4 Mile Run Master Plan’ which provides guidance for the area which is in the Chesapeake Bay protection area and is supposed to comply with the Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance.”
“So far the staff information omits any reference to ARCA’s recently accepted Neighborhood Conservation Plan which specifically objects to up-zonings in our area until a comprehensive master plan has been developed. Our plan calls for preserving, protecting, enhancing and stabilizing the edges of our community. This proposal does not accomplish that goal.”
“While affordable housing may be a laudable goal, coming at the expense of these concerns is problematic,” the newsletter concluded.
Arthur Fox, ARCA’s Vice President of External Affairs, says the proposal is at an “early stage” and declined to say whether the organization would ultimately oppose it when it reaches the Arlington County Board. ARCA will meet with AHC representatives and county planning staff at its membership meeting tonight.
ARCA previously opposed the PenPlace development and has expressed concerns about a proposed apartment complex, both in Pentagon City. Like those projects, the Berkley is outside ARCA’s boundaries. However, the neighborhood includes Arlington Ridge Road, which is often jammed with commuters around rush hours and thus impacted to a degree by surrounding developments.