On May 6, a select group of Arlington Democrats voted to endorse Takis Karantonis as their candidate in the special election to fill the seat vacated due to the tragic illness and death of Erik Gutshall.
(Full disclosure: My husband was a member of the closed caucus and I serve with Takis Karantonis on the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions.)
Erik was an advocate for Missing Middle housing during his campaign for the County Board in 2017. Following that race was what first brought me into local politics as a relatively new Arlingtonian. Erik also clearly understood the connection between housing and other zoning regulations and transportation policy, such as the role of residential parking requirements.
As Arlington’s population grows in the urban corridors, both those along Metro lines, but also along Columbia Pike and Lee Highway, the County Board will benefit from Takis’s direct experience with economic development in Arlington. (Although I am personally disappointed that we won’t have a renter on the Board.)
In their endorsement, Greater Greater Washington acknowledged Karantonis’s “long record of fighting for less fortunate people and an area of the county that has not gotten the planning or transportation investments it needs.” (I no longer work for Greater Greater Washington and I had no role in making the endorsement.)
In answering the candidate questionnaire released by the Alliance for Housing Solutions, Takis emphasized the specific, practical tools that he sees available for the County to expand the diversity of our housing options, while also creating affordable homes for low-income residents.
Takis recognizes that many types of housing are “compatible with the gentle transition from our commercial corridors to our established neighborhoods.” He sees the Form-Based Code model is a good way to provide a “level of predictability” for adding “missing middle” housing types into residential areas that border commercial zones – including micro-units, stacked flats, duplexes and triplexes.
As for committed affordable housing, Takis wants to use tools such as the recent zoning amendment “to incentivize the creation of more onsite affordable units on the land being developed.” Recognizing that our high housing costs are due to the high cost of land, he would explore land banking, Transfer of Development Rights, Tax Increment Financing, and Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing as opportunities to produce more affordable units. I am looking forward to learning more about his policies in the next two months.
Currently, two other candidates have stepped forward for the July 7 special election. Susan Cunningham also wants to emphasize planning in Arlington’s non-Metro corridors. Based on her candidate statement, she is interested in “selective upzoning to enhance business viability and housing choice and affordability.” She emphasized “long-term planning” to balance growth with facilities investment, open space, and County spending.
The Arlington Republican Party has also announced a candidate. While Bob Cambridge does not have a campaign website at the time of this writing, the Arlington GOP platform states a commitment “to maintain an ample supply of market-rate affordable housing, to avoid the need for housing subsidies.” Additionally, they support job creation in the County and “fair and reasonable zoning” — although what that means specifically remains to be seen.
It will be impossible to fill Erik Gutshall’s shoes, and it will be up to Arlington voters if they want an equally passionate advocate for diverse and affordable housing on the County Board when we vote on July 7. Regardless, the election will shape our County during this critical time, when we can look outward and be welcoming of new residents, or be insular and closed off. I hope everyone follows the campaigns and makes their voice heard. You can request an absentee ballot online here.
Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her family. By day, she is the Membership Director for Food and Water Watch and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.