High school-based behavioral health services could be in place by November or December of this year, according to the county.
In the wake of a mini-rash of student deaths earlier this year that included the fatal overdose of a 14-year-old Wakefield High School student, Arlington Public Schools and the county government began devising a joint response to the twin epidemics of substance use and mental health issues.
This included plans to place county therapists in schools. The intent was to make it easier for students to get mental health support from the Dept. of Human Services, overseen by Arlington’s Community Services Board, or CSB.
“Both APS and the County seek to reduce barriers for children and youth to receive services from the Arlington CSB,” a county report says. “This agreement will allow for the provision of outpatient services in the school setting rather than the office setting. It will significantly reduce or eliminate the need for transportation and potential family time away from work.”
As part of the 2024 budget adopted earlier this year, the Arlington County Board approved $520,000 in ongoing funding and four full-time employees for this program. Recruitment of the four employees is underway, per the report.
The county notes the program responds to calls from the community for more services to youth.
“Expanded behavioral health services for children and youth has been identified as a community need by both Arlington Public Schools and the County through ongoing dialogues with stakeholders,” the report says.
The report emphasizes that the School-Based Behavioral Health Program cannot be the single, defining solution for struggling teens.
It “supplements and reinforces families’ efforts to enhance youth mental wellness by teaching and coaching youth to develop coping skills for managing emotional challenges in order to improve functioning at home, school, and in the community,” the report says.
The county and APS spent the summer hammering out a memorandum of understanding permitting the DHS Children’s Behavioral Health Bureau to provide behavioral health support in high schools. This weekend, the County Board is set to ratify the document.
Once the four behavioral health specialists are hired and finish mandatory training, they could begin practicing in Arlington high schools in November or December, the report says.
The Arlington County Board is set to update the rules of the road to align with a new state law aimed at improving pedestrian safety.
This weekend, the Board is set to enact changes to local ordinances requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. These changes were advertised this summer.
Currently, county code only requires drivers to yield to those crossing the street on foot, according to a county report. This conflicts with state code, which was amended this March to require drivers to “stop for” pedestrians.
“Pedestrians are one of our most vulnerable road users because their bodies are not surrounded with a metal frame and airbags,” the report says. “This law encourages drivers to look for, be aware of, and stop for pedestrians to help get to Arlington’s goal of Vision Zero transportation deaths or serious injuries by 2030.”
The report notes that, from 2018-2022, a third of all severe or fatal crashes in Arlington County involved a pedestrian.
A county data dashboard shows there were 82 pedestrian crashes in those years, spread fairly evenly over those years and located all throughout the county. The number of fatal pedestrian crashes reached a high of four in 2019.
Any driver who does not stop is guilty of a traffic infraction and can face a $100-$500 fine, according to the new law.
The county intends to notify residents of the change via a press release, emails and social media posts, per the report.
There will also be new signage, the Dept. of Environmental Services previously told ARLnow.
Sixty-eight residents of an apartment building in Crystal City were told this week that they have 14 days to leave due to damage from a fire in the boiler room last month.
One resident tells ARLnow the news leaves affected tenants scrambling for last-minute housing options. He says those told to vacate include an octogenarian who has lived in her apartment for three decades and “is unsure of where to go.”
“To say that this has caused turmoil and distress would be an understatement,” the resident said. “Finding alternative housing, coordinating a move, and dealing with the various challenges that come with such a sudden eviction is a monumental task in itself.”
On Aug. 21, a fire broke out in the boiler room of the southern wing of the Crystal Plaza Apartments at 2111 Richmond Hwy. Industrial hygienists, air quality specialists and engineers, among other specialists, assessed the impacts to every apartment, according to a letter shared with ARLnow.
They determined some apartments need new flooring, cabinetry, walls and systems to remove all residual soot and other pollutants — work that would require tenants to vacate, the letter said. The notice gave them 14 days, the minimum required by Virginia law, to leave.
The notices were dated Sept. 14, after owner Dweck Properties learned from an industrial hygienist that these apartments would need a more comprehensive assessment and, possibly, extensive remediation work, a Dweck spokesperson tells ARLnow.
These additional assessments are contingent on apartments being vacant, the spokesperson added. They would determine the scope and cost of work as well as how long it could take.
“This notice was needed to ensure we could access units for repair if required,” the spokesperson said. “We are now working with each resident on their transition — identifying alternative apartments, understanding each of their timing needs, and assisting them in any way we can.”
Before this notice, the resident says a community-wide notice went out a few days after the inspections, describing which apartments suffered the most damage and required immediate work.
“Our apartment was not included in this list,” the resident said. “It is essential to emphasize that since the fire, we had received no communication or updates regarding our situation.”
The Dweck spokesperson did not say whether residents also received the community-wide notice.
In its letter, Dweck was apologetic and offered to cover $2,000 in moving expenses per unit.
“The fire incident has had a wide-ranging impact, and we are so very sorry for the disruption it has caused,” the letter said.
Since the letters went out, Dweck tells ARLnow it has taken more steps to ease these transitions. In meetings convened Monday and Tuesday, Dweck told residents it would also cover insurance deductibles up to $500 and reimburse residents for rent paid from the time of the incident to the time they move out.
“While some of this work requires units to be vacant, our inspection team is revisiting all of these 68 apartments this week to see if there is any possibility of performing remediation while the apartments are occupied — in apartments that potentially require less work,” the company spokesperson said.
Attorneys for residents contesting the new Missing Middle zoning ordinances and Arlington County squared off today (Tuesday) in court — but a decision will not be reached until at least next month.
Residents sued the county earlier this year, shortly after the Arlington County Board adopted the Missing Middle zoning ordinance changes authorizing 2-6 unit homes in areas previously zoned for single-family homes only.
They claimed the changes run afoul of state law on substantive and procedural grounds. The county disputes that and says the case ought to be dismissed because these residents will not be harmed — and are no more impacted than any other resident — by Missing Middle construction.
Gifford Hampshire, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued the county made several missteps, including not commissioning studies to determine the impact of these changes; promulgating confusing ordinances; and failing to post online a document that the County Board was given ahead of the vote.
Documents should be provided to the public at the same time so “everyone is well informed and can participate meaningfully in the public process,” he said.
For Arlington County Attorney MinhChau Corr, the question at hand is not whether Expanded Housing Options, or EHOs, are a good idea. Rather, she told the court, the question is whether the County Board acted appropriately when it made its decision.
She said this case amounts to upset residents who disliked the decision, petitioning the court to overturn the decision. She said this tactic is a “subversion of our democratic process.”
After the arguments, retired Fairfax Judge David Schell informed those present he would render a decision on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. He was appointed to handle the case after Arlington’s Circuit Court judges recused themselves, delaying the hearing process by a few months, the Gazette Leader previously reported.
Between now and next month, Schell said he will determine whether the plaintiffs have standing. This will determine whether he dismisses the case and will inform his judgment on the claims related to Freedom of Information laws.
Corr argued attempts to show the plaintiffs will suffer harm other residents will not face with EHO construction is speculative, saying “they don’t even know what [EHOs] look like.” Permits for EHO construction only recently started receiving approvals from the county.
Hampshire says the 10 plaintiffs own homes in neighborhoods where 2-6 unit homes would stress their water and sewer lines, overcrowd their schools and potentially increase their property assessments.
A few dozen people attended the arguments, including Dan Creedon, representing the Neighbors for Neighborhoods Litigation Fund, created to fund the lawsuit. He provided the following statement to ARLnow.
EHO/MMH zoning upends Arlington’s decades-old, successful land use policy to concentrate density along Metro corridors. The County Board eliminated single-family zoning in Arlington, allowing 6-plexes on single-family lots across the County, but failed to conduct the studies required by State law that would have revealed the impact of the increased density in residential neighborhoods.
Former Arlington County Board candidate Natalie Roy told ARLnow after the hearing that the county’s arguments “seemed to be based on an alternative universe.”
An Arlington high school student who had gone missing over the weekend was reunited with his family — after his stepmom says a tow truck driver spotted him.
Brandon, a Washington-Liberty High School student, was last seen Friday morning. His mom, who lives in Arlington, notified his dad and stepmother, Phil and Tiffany Pierce, of Stafford, the next day.
Tiffany tells ARLnow she and Phil began “walking and driving around Arlington, day in and out, looking for Brandon… and working with the police.”
Police posted missing notices on social media, where the post was shared several hundred times. Tiffany also took to Facebook Sunday to post about her missing stepson and urged people to be on the lookout for him.
The Facebook posts were seen by Ryan O’Neill, a tow truck driver with Advanced Towing, who made headlines last year after helping to talk a man down from the edge of a Route 1 overpass.
Tiffany received a call from O’Neill around 4 p.m. yesterday (Monday), in which he said he spotted Brandon in Ballston and caught up to him.
O’Neill struck up a conversation with Brandon until Tiffany and Phil arrived, about 10 minutes later.
“Once I got there and we were reunited with Brandon, I called Brandon’s mom and the police, they met us in the Wells Fargo parking lot and we now have Brandon home with us,” Tiffany said. “We are forever grateful for Ryan for helping us bring Brandon home safe.”
In a statement, ACPD confirmed that Brandon was found yesterday. Police were dispatched around 3:40 p.m. to the 1000 block of N. Stafford Street for a report of a found missing juvenile.
“Upon arrival, it was determined family members had observed the juvenile walking in the area,” spokeswoman Alli Shorb said. “Responding officers made contact with the juvenile, confirmed his wellbeing and he was released to the custody of a guardian.”
She said family members reported observing the missing juvenile and noted that ACPD does not have additional details about whether a tow truck operator was involved.
Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill, the adoptive father of Ryan, confirmed the event.
“Ryan is constantly helping out the public,” John said, adding that he “pays attention and is all over Arlington.”
He cited the Crystal City overpass incident and the discovery of the missing teen as examples of how Advanced Towing is “helping out the community.”
That’s in contrast with Advanced’s more common perception as a “predatory” tow company, which has led to an unsuccessful lawsuit and repeated attempts at passing towing-related consumer protections. Advanced was also recently in the news for a driver who towed a car with children inside and, just yesterday, for a citation issued to a tow driver for an alleged unsafe tow.
The Advanced driver who towed the car with children inside earlier this month was not cited. The woman who allegedly left the children to go into a mall is, however, facing charges.
JBG Smith is asking Arlington County to relieve it of restrictions that it says present serious obstacles to putting up new rooftop signs.
The real estate company is specifically asking the county to remove language restricting the number and size of signs allowed on two office buildings in the Crystal Park development it owns in Crystal City. The proposal is set to go before the County Board this Saturday.
Not everyone is comfortable with the language change, however. Two area civic associations told the county that the restrictions should stay, fearing this would pave the way for more signs going forward.
Currently, Crystal Park offices are governed by a document that “ties certain approved signs to specific tenants, some of which no longer occupy the premises, limits installation of rooftop signs to a single, prescribed rooftop sign and contains outdated requirements for approved signs,” land-use attorney Kedrick Whitmore wrote in an application to the county.
This hamstrings JBG Smith, he continues.
“Collectively, these restrictions complicate the ability to re-design existing signage for new tenants and present obstacles to achieving new rooftop signage,” Whitmore wrote.
JBG Smith is requesting the county remove restrictions for Crystal Park 1 and 3 office buildings, located at 2011 Crystal Drive and 2231 Crystal Drive. Instead, it asks the county evaluate new signage only in accordance to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.
In 2012, the zoning code was updated, providing new clarifying parameters for signs and only requiring staff review. This change did not apply to a smattering of older developments throughout Arlington governed by more restrictive agreements.
County staff say this change would make it easier for JBG Smith to compete for tenants.
“As commercial buildings mature and market themselves for new tenants, it is imperative that building owners be able to avail themselves of sign permissions available to other similar buildings so as to not place themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” the report said.
The county notes that other building owners have made similar requests and had the support of staff, as this “allow[s] for fair administration of building signage.”
The report says Crystal City and Aurora Highlands civic associations told the county they do not support JBG Smith’s request because it could allow for more signs.
The other reason, leaders told the county, is that the current provisions were decided through negotiated community benefits during the site plan review process.
“The community accepted less in the way of other benefits to limit the number and size of signs, so they believe that changes to allow more signs would not be fair,” the report says.
The county says it found no evidence that the more restrictive language was related to community benefit packages.
“Rather these were common site plan conditions approved in the absence of comprehensive sign provisions of the [zoning ordinance], which are now in place,” the report said.
Eric Cassel, the president of the Crystal City Civic Association, told ARLnow this morning that, as of now, the issue is “relatively minor.”
“JBGS downgraded the proposal significantly and we are not spending resources to oppose it,” he said.
Longtime plans to redevelop the former Silver Diner site in Clarendon are headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.
An 11-story, 290-unit apartment building with about 16,000 square feet of retail and a 10-story, 229-room hotel with a rooftop terrace and bar are proposed for the site, dubbed “Bingham Center.”
This Saturday, the Board is set to review the plans from owner TCS Realty Associates and developer Donohoe Cos., including a request for the county to vacate portions of a public alley and street. In exchange, Arlington would receive some $1.15 million in compensation, per a county report.
The new buildings would sit on a triangular parcel bounded by Wilson Blvd, 10th Street N. and N. Irving Street, across from Northside Social. They would replace the now-closed Silver Diner, the Lot beer garden, two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” an auto repair facility and surface parking.
The 3200 Wilson Blvd property is near the Joyce Motors site which was approved for another significant development earlier this year, as well as the Wells Fargo development site that’s currently under review.
The project comes forward two months after the County Board approved a deadline extension request from TCS and Donohoe. They asked for more time to fix “unresolved design challenges” along N. Irving Street, particularly regarding the pedestrian experience.
The duo had proposed a loading area and hotel-serving facilities along N. Irving Street, which county staff previously noted deviates from the 2022 Clarendon Sector Plan. This plan, developed in anticipation of a handful of projects, including Silver Diner, envisions a walkable, retail-studded N. Irving Street.
Members of the Site Plan Review Committee agreed. They said the loading dock would create conflicts with pedestrians accessing a proposed plaza on N. Irving Street. They also had misgivings about the bricked-over, retail-less façade on N. Irving Street.
An early suggestion from TCS and Donohoe included adding a “living green wall,” but the county and the public said this did not address the issues of missing retail or pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.
Now, the county says the developers have found a solution and there are no outstanding issues.
TCS and Donohoe moved the dock to the forthcoming extension of 10th Road N. As part of the overall Bingham Center project, Donohoe will extend this one-block-long road east of the site so that it cuts through the site and intersects with Wilson Blvd.
In addition, the developers agreed to install windows into the kitchen that abuts the future “Irving Plaza,” envisioned in the Clarendon Sector Plan. The proposed green wall has been replaced with a “decorative element” intended to enhance the otherwise un-enlivened façade.
A forthcoming apartment building in Courthouse already has a lineup of restaurants and fitness studios slated to move in.
A franchise location of Rumble Boxing and a Japanese restaurant and bar called Gingerfish are among those getting in on the ground level of The Commodore, a nearly completed apartment building at 2055 15th Street N.
Over the last two years, developer Greystar has been at work building a 20-story, 423-unit building on what is dubbed the “Landmark Block.” This block, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Courthouse Road, was once home to a collection of restaurants, including Summers.
When photographed today, the building appeared nearly complete from the outside, though separate transportation upgrades — which include pavement, sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements to public streets — are ongoing.
Work appears to be wrapping up on the building, as social media posts — playing up the apartment’s pet-friendliness — note the building is “coming soon.” Other signs of completion include the retailers that are already listed as forthcoming tenants.
Gingerfish is “by a local restaurant group with various other concepts in the Arlington market,” according to CBRE leasing agent Jared Meier.
“[Regarding] other tenants for the space, we are not at liberty to announce who they are, but I am excited to note that we are close to finalizing leases with an açai bowl operator, a yoga studio, and a taqueria,” he said.
A leasing map indicates a letter of intent has been or is being put forward for the one space, leaving just one listed as available.
The project broke ground almost two years ago, projecting a fall 2023 completion date at the time. It appears developer Greystar remains largely on schedule.
“We are anticipating first move ins for The Commodore in early October,” said Allison Rynak, the director of marketing communications for Greystar.
Meier also expects retail tenants could move in next month. The new restaurants and fitness gyms could be open for business next spring or summer, he said.
Meanwhile, work continues on another Greystar project a few blocks away. What was once a Wendy’s will become an apartment tower, ground-floor retail and a plaza at 2025 Clarendon Blvd. The two projects realize a significant part of the county’s vision for the neighborhood.
A restaurant in Clarendon has hung up the ever-elusive promise of a “coming soon” sign.
It is one sign of progress for two Asian restaurants taking up residence next to each other on the 3200 block of Washington Blvd, in a retail strip that includes a pizza place and O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub.
The “coming soon” sign advertises the impending arrival of Tiger Dumpling, a Chinese dim sum restaurant. A construction permit for the space was filed last winter.
Meanwhile, a liquor license is now “pending” for Japanese restaurant called Izakaya 68, set to occupy a space next door to Tiger Dumpling. This restaurant is modeled after informal Japanese bars serving drinks, snacks and small plates.
Both restaurants are owned by the Ivea Restaurant Group, which lists these locations as “coming soon” on its website. The group runs a number of Asian-inspired restaurants across the region, including Ballston’s Gyu San, which opened this summer.
Neither Ivea Restaurant Group nor the permit holder listed on permits posted in the window of Tiger Dumpling returned requests for updates on when the pair of eateries would open.
Ivea Restaurant Group previously told ARLnow they were aiming for a summer 2023 opening for the pair of restaurants.
Tiger Dumpling and Izakaya 68 are set to replace Utahime and La Finca, which closed in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
These restaurant spaces have seen considerable turnover over the years, and were once home to European pub Park Lane Tavern, ‘Top Chef’ contestant Katsuji Tanabe’s Le Kon and a cajun seafood-and-sushi place, Asiatique.
Yesterday morning, while Arlington Public Schools students were on their way to school, two cars were involved in a crash on S. Carlin Springs Road.
Around 7 a.m., police were dispatched to the intersection of Carlin Springs and 5th Road S. for reports of a crash resulting in property damage, says ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“Upon arrival, it was determined the drivers of the two involved vehicles were traveling north on S. Carlin Springs Road when the vehicles collided, causing one vehicle to strike a utility pole and street sign,” she said. “No injuries were reported.”
The sign struck instructs turning vehicles to yield to pedestrians.
This stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road is notable for its narrow sidewalks and little or no pedestrian buffer. The road, which includes walk zones for Carlin Springs and Campbell elementary schools and Kenmore Middle School, has a history of crashes as well as a smattering of improvements.
In the last five years, the site of yesterday’s crash has seen a handful of crashes that sustained at least $1,500 in property damage or resulted in injury or death, according to data Savage shared with ARLnow. There were two last year, four in 2019 and two in 2018, but no recorded crashes in the intervening pandemic years.
Since 2013, there have been four severe crashes on this stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road: two at 1st Street S. in 2013 and 2021, one at 3rd Street S. in 2022, and one at 5th Street S. in 2016.
Last year, several intersections within this stretch saw 1-2 crashes each, according to a county report.
One of those last October involved a young cyclist and driver proceeding through a green light. After this crash, some in the community re-upped their calls for a safer S. Carlin Springs Road. They said local families have described unsafe conditions for years, leading to a 2018 study of the road that generated some short-term changes in 2020 and 2021.
Parts of S. Carlin Springs Road are in what the county calls an “equity emphasis area,” for its high population of people of color and households with lower incomes.
The county uses this designation to evaluate transportation upgrades and ensure these areas — where crashes occur twice as frequently — receive proper attention through Vision Zero.
As part of Vision Zero — the county’s effort to eliminate pedestrian deaths and serious injuries by 2030 — this spring, the county lowered speeds from 25 mph to 20 mph on parts of S. Carlin Springs Road within 600 feet of access points for Kenmore, Carlin Springs and Campbell.
To catch the attention of drivers, the county also added more visible crosswalks, signage and street markings.
Last winter, Arlington added rapid flashing beacons at a mid-block along 7th Road S., between Carlin Springs and S. Jefferson Street, which the county says is “on a critical path” for students walking to these schools.
Bucking statewide trends, Arlington County may be seeing opioid overdoses trend down this year.
So far this year, Arlington registered 44 overdoses with Narcan — a brand name for the opioid-reversal drug naloxone — deployed in 35 instances. Of the overdoses, eight involved juveniles, all of whom received Narcan.
That marks a 31% decrease this calendar year in total opioid overdoses, compared to other Virginia jurisdictions still seeing increases, says Emily Siqveland, the opioids program manager for the county.
That is the good news, to be taken with a more sobering projection that Arlington County is not seeing a similar decline in fatal overdoses. As of this time last year, Siqveland says Arlington had the same number of fatal overdoses as it does now: 15.
Arlington County has been significantly affected by the opioid epidemic wreaking havoc on the country and the region, where the Inova health system estimates some 32% of adults have a family member or friend with an addiction. In response, the county has joined lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies linked to the opioid crisis, putting settlements toward treatment.
It was the January 2023 death of 14-year-old Sergio Flores after overdosing at Wakefield High School, however, that threw a spotlight on the use of pressed pills among young people and a lack of local treatment options for them. His passing prompted a surge in activity and conversations within Arlington Public Schools, the county and the broader community.
Eight months later, some of that work is coming together.
Works in progress
The hyperlocal focus on young people dovetails with findings from Inova that younger generations are particularly touched by addiction. It found 32% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennial survey respondents reported having a family member or friend with an addiction.
APS has hired one substance abuse counselor and is finalizing paperwork for the other, says Darrell Sampson, the school system’s executive director of student services. This would bring the total number of counselors to eight serving the division.
This year, the Dept. of Human Services and APS are preparing to station four county therapists in the high schools. To date, 320 high school students have family consent to carry Narcan in school.
“With the additional substance abuse counselors, we’re able to expand supports to middle schools,” Sampson tells ARLnow, noting insufficient support for 6-8th graders was a concern in the community. “We want to try to keep [kids who are experimenting] from blowing up into a more full-blown addiction or using even more concerning substances.”
In June, several years after closing down its juvenile treatment program, National Capital Treatment & Recovery (NCTR) — formerly Phoenix House — debuted its new adolescent intensive outpatient program this summer.
As of yesterday (Thursday), NCTR has admitted 13 patients and has had to turn away referrals from outside the county, which it cannot accept at this time, NCTR Chief Clinical Officer Pattie Schneeman tells ARLnow.
“I anticipate the referrals will increase now that school has started, because that is often where we start seeing the needs surface, i.e. when it interferes with school attendance, etc.,” Schneeman said.