If the last year has taught us anything, it is that half measure never provide real solutions to our most pressing problems.
In the realm of housing, our leaders should be taking bold action to address affordability and ensure a sustainable future. This means being courageous in championing an end to exclusionary zoning and embracing policies that will allow multifamily housing throughout the County.
Housing affordability and the terrible legacy of exclusionary zoning are making national headlines. In recent weeks, this has been spurred by a proposal within President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to “eliminate state and local exclusionary zoning laws.” National opinion writers have clarified that restrictive zoning policies are antithetical to both progressive values of inclusivity and conservative values of the free market.
As the national conversation moves toward acceptance of inclusive and open zoning, advocates at the local and state level have succeeded in pushing elected officials to act. Communities across the country are making news by taking bold steps to add housing, in the name of racial justice, as well as economic necessity.
The City Council of Berkeley, California, voted to eliminate single-family zoning, a century after it was the first city to establish the practice. This is a symbolic but significant step, recognizing the racist legacy of exclusionary zoning. Other cities in California have made similar moves, including Sacramento and San Jose. This follows Minneapolis’s transformative zoning change in 2018, and statewide zoning liberalization in Oregon in 2019.
Why isn’t Arlington making news on this front?
We were the beneficiaries of the biggest economic development decision of the past decade when National Landing was selected as the location for Amazon’s second headquarters. This decision made news across the country. The anticipated, and ongoing, challenges to housing affordability, displacement, and tenant advocacy also made news.
But Arlington County is not making news with its policy response. Instead, we are taking miniscule steps, deferring to entrenched interests at every point. Everything is undertaken from the perspective of an incumbent landowner who demands a low-density, car-centered neighborhood blocks away from corridors rich with opportunity.
Arlingtonians pushing for affordable and attainable housing, as well as safe streets and reduced car traffic, face a gauntlet of public meetings. It takes hours of our lives to get a half mile of protected bike lane or an extra unit of housing on a single-family lot.
The Vernon Street Duplex is a proposal for a two-unit dwelling on a corner lot along Washington Blvd. Because of zoning rules, the builder must go through the same site plan review process that the County has for large-scale apartment or office buildings. “Missing middle” housing will never be attainable for middle-income families if it is forced to incur onerous planning processes.
While County staff released a set of bold research papers that clarify the extent of the problem and the historical grounding, the next phase will identify which types of multi-family homes might be palatable, and then decide which places are acceptable for these new building types. After two years of work, we might get to add duplexes along a few arterial roads because the process is defined not by what needs to be done, but by what will cause the least offense to small group of vocal defenders of Arlington’s suburban past.
Another component is the Multifamily Reinvestment Study, which is focused on preserving the dwindling supply of market-rate affordable apartments, which are isolated in a small band of allowable zoning, sprinkled along Arlington’s main corridors. The goal is to identify “GLUP and zoning tools” that could “provide a streamlined development review process and offer more density than currently possible in order to maintain some affordability.” But these changes will have a limited impact as long as we allow apartments on only 27% of Arlington’s land.
Over the past year, I have been increasingly frustrated with the Arlington Way. It serves as a roadblock to any progress to address our climate crisis or our housing shortage. It requires an exhausting amount of effort from advocates and residents, especially ones who are the least stable in their housing in Arlington. It is time to think bigger, and start making news.
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.
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 7696 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
Arlington is poised to take a proverbial weed whacker to commercial properties with overgrown lawns and all properties with obstructive vegetation. Last month, a proposal to change the ordinance pertaining…
Meet the beautiful Koda, a glass half full kinda dog who searching for his forever home.
It appears as if Courthouse’s newest date night spot won’t be open for Valentine’s Day. The opening for the hotly anticipated Taco Bell Cantina at 2039 Wilson Blvd has been…
Let the Arlingtones surprise your friend or sweetie this Valentine’s Day with a barbershop quartet singing love songs in four part a cappella harmony! Choose from a small selection of songs in our repertoire to surprise your special someone.
$75 for two songs delivered to a place of your choice by a live, in-person quartet. Includes a classy tin of chocolates, fresh red rose and personalized card. Small mileage surcharge for >5 miles outside Arlington VA.
$30 Facetime/Skype valentine- two songs delivered ‘live’ via Facetime or Skype at an agreed-on time.
$20 virtual valentine- two pre-recorded quartet songs delivered via email with a personalized message.
Have you noticed a striking sculpture at Monroe Street and Wilson Boulevard? It’s the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington’s newest installation, Make Your Mark, by Arlington artist, Adam Henry. This sculpture celebrates MoCA Arlington’s rebranding and brings the museum’s energy outdoors.
On February 11, come inside when the museum’s galleries reopen with two new exhibitions: Rebecca Rivas Rogers: Grey View and Crisis of Image.
Grey View, in the Wyatt Resident Artist Gallery, is an homage to “gray” and a snapshot of the artist’s process. Consisting of photographs, collage, and a site-specific installation, this show is an outgrowth of Rivas-Rogers’ visual investigations into places you see on your way to somewhere else.
On the main level, Crisis of Image features artists who seek equity in today’s saturated visual world by developing new methods related to the production of images.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village