Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Trash Collection CancelledUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]

Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]

Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]

Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]

Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]

New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]

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Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.

Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.

More from Garvey’s speech:

We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.

We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.

First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.

Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.

Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.

So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?

Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.

“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”

Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.

“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.

More from a county press release:

Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”

To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.

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(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Could legalizing duplexes and triplexes in certain areas be a way to provide more affordable, middle-income housing in Arlington?

That’s what Arlington County will trying to determine with a new “Missing Middle Housing Study.”

In announcing the study, the county pushed back on the assertion — made by some activists —  that it was looking to eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as was done in Minneapolis. Instead, county staff said that “neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington.”

The study will explore whether allowing more types of housing could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington” and will determine where the new housing types could be allowed so as to be “compatible with existing neighborhoods.”

The study — part of the overall Housing Arlington initiative — is expected to begin in 2020.

Meanwhile, a statewide missing middle housing bill has been proposed. HB 152, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by a Northern Virginia legislator, proposes requiring “all localities to allow development or redevelopment of ‘middle housing’ residential units upon each lot zoned for single-family residential use.”

The press release on the Arlington County housing study is below, after the jump.

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The Arlington County Board is set to consider allocating millions of dollars into two affordable housing developments, per the agenda for the Board’s meeting this Saturday, December 14.

In the agenda’s first affordable housing item, County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended the Board approve nearly $14 million in taxpayer-funded loans for the development of the Terwilliger Place Apartments at 3445 Washington Blvd.

The American Legion post in Virginia Square will be redeveloped with a seven-story, 160-unit residential building, with apartments prioritized for former veterans and a space for the legion.

In August, Arlington couple Ron and Frances Terwilliger donated $1.5 million to the development, giving it its namesake. Recently, Amazon also allocated $1 million from its June affordable housing donation to the project.

The project is expected to be completed “no later than December 2022,” per the staff report, and the total cost is estimated to be approximately $37 million.

In the second affordable housing item, Schwartz has recommended the Board allocate $11 million of county and federal funds to assist with the development and construction for The Cadence, a new affordable apartment complex with 97 committed affordable units to be located at 4333 Arlington Blvd.

The site plans include the demolition of a former Red Cross building, along with two single-family homes. Nineteen market-rate townhouses will also be constructed.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be $47.2 million.

In July, the county applied for an allocation of the Virginia Housing Development Authority’s REACH funds, part of the state incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, for The Cadence. If approved, 12 units in the building will be designated for those with incomes 40% or below the Area Median Income.

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With the festive season upon us, Amazon has gotten into the giving spirit with a holiday donation for students who live in local affordable housing complexes.

On Tuesday, officials from Amazon’s charity group AmazonSmile met with residents at affordable housing developer AHC Inc.‘s Gates of Ballston property, distributing school supplies, board games, and more.

Amazon’s donation was made in effort to support AHC’s educational programming for residents utilizing the AHC’s AmazonSmile Charity List, an online wish list platform.

The donated items will be distributed across AHC’s five different community centers in Northern Virginia with children’s educational programming, which benefits dozens of students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“AHC Inc. is thrilled to be surprised by Amazon to receive donations of educational games and electronics from AHC’s AmazonSmile Charity List,” said AHC President & CEO Walter D. Webdale in a press release.

“The low-income families we serve in Arlington and the surrounding areas are especially struggling during the holiday season, and contributions to support the girls and boys in AHC’s afterschool and teen tutoring programs will not only brighten the holiday but help keep learning front and center.”

AHC is Arlington’s oldest and largest nonprofit affordable housing developer, managing 23 properties across Arlington with 3,000 low- and moderate-income residents. AHC also manages properties elsewhere in Virginia and Maryland.

Amazon has made recent local headlines for its affordable housing contributions. During the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday, December 14, the board will vote on approval of the first phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City, which would come with a $20 million contribution from Amazon to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).

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Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Any time Arlington County gets access to land within our 26 square miles is a cause for celebration. It also requires a firm commitment to make the best possible use of this extremely limited and valuable resource.

On December 14, the County Board may vote to acquire the benefit of a new piece of property just blocks from the Crystal City Metro Station. We need to make sure this opportunity isn’t undone by the cry for parking.

South Arlington’s Crystal House apartment complex, comprised of two 1960s-era high-rise buildings, is slated for infill development. The site plan will be on the County Board’s December 14 agenda.

The staff recommendation contains what Planning Commissioners called a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for achieving the Crystal City Zoning Ordinance’s affordable housing obligation. Instead of providing 47 units of committed affordable housing within the complex, Roseland is offering to convey one portion of their property, currently a surface parking lot, to the County. The understanding is that the County could develop this property with at least 81 units of committed affordable housing.

The benefits of this proposal are enticing.

First, by owning the land and working with an Affordable Housing developer, the County Board could create units that would remain affordable to low-income residents for 60 years, unlike the typical 30-year term for on-site affordable units within market-rate developments. Second, the location of this parcel at 22nd and Eads would provide excellent transportation access for the building’s residents. Third, by owning and developing the property, the County could provide a much-needed community facility for the 22202 ZIP code, in addition to the committed affordable housing, such as we see at Arlington Mill.

But these positive benefits are future opportunities that will require a commitment to realize. The only thing Arlington would get in the short-term is a surface parking lot. And it is a particularly contested parking lot. Business owners from the adjacent “23rd Street Restaurant Row” see these 96 spaces as the key to their business.

Any effort to build on the parking lot will continue to face pushback from the merchants. Roseland is offering this parcel not only to achieve bonus density on their site, but also to get out of the parking fight. By accepting the land, Arlington County is stepping into a battle that could stymie any effort to achieve affordable housing.

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A third of Amazon’s $3 million June donation for affordable housing in and around Arlington will go to the redevelopment of the American Legion post in Virginia Square.

“The funds will dramatically drive down the rental rates” for ten units at the 160-unit development, located at 3445 Washington Blvd, according to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

“We are so honored that the Foundation and Amazon chose APAH for the initial gift. This contribution will go a long way in making this special project even more impactful,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul in a press release. The grant is being made via the Arlington Community Foundation, which is managing Amazon’s $3 million gift.

The site has been formally dubbed Terwilliger Place, after a couple who also made a hefty donation towards the project earlier this year.

“Thanks to today’s gifts we can increase the number of Terwilliger Place homes that will be affordable for those living in the lowest income bracket — families living on minimum wage,” Janopaul said.

In 2016, APAH bought the 1.3-acre property, and the County Board in February approved a plan to tear it down in 2020. In its place will go 160 units of housing with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all at different levels of affordability. Half of the units will go towards housing low-income veterans, and plans to open to residents on a first-come basis are set for summer 2022.

“We are adding much-needed affordable units to our inventory, and many of them are large enough for families,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a statement earlier this year.

APAH also plans to build a brand-new, modern 6,000 square foot facility in Terwilliger Place for Legion Post 139, with amenities such as private counseling spaces, community activity rooms, and a computer lab.

In addition to Amazon’s June donation, the company has announced it will match employee donations to select housing- and homelessness-related nonprofits in and around Arlington, including AHC Inc., APAH, Carpenter’s Shelter, and more.

The County Board will vote on a zoning amendment next week for Amazon’s upcoming HQ2, which includes a $20 million donation towards Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The grant announcement from APAH is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Confusing Lane Markings on I-395 — “Drivers are complaining about mis-matched lane striping on… 395 South near Shirlington.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

New Taco Restaurant Eyeing Arlington — Wild Tacoz, which recently opened in the Falls Church area, is aiming to become a local chain with future locations in Arlington and elsewhere. [Tysons Reporter]

Pedestrian Struck Near Clarendon — “A woman was just struck by a car on N. Pershing Drive at Fillmore Street in Lyon Park. Only minor injuries reported. Police and firefighters on scene.” [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Dems Push for Higher Wages at DCA — “Delegates have signed a letter urging the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority to ensure contracted workers at Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport reach $15 per hour by 2023. Their $12.15 hourly wages are far lower than D.C.’s $15 minimum wage and many East Coast airports.” [Press Release]

Crystal City Hilton Sold — “Starwood Capital Group has made its second acquisition in the area around Amazon HQ2 this year. The Miami-based firm acquired a 393-room hotel in Crystal City from a fund affiliated with JBG Smith for $73M.” [Bisnow, Washington Business Journal]

Housing May Dominate Budget Discussion — “Board members directed, as part of their fiscal 2021 budget guidance to County Manager Mark Schwartz, that budget plans include an option to increase affordable-housing funding to as much as $25 million, a 56-percent increase from the $16 million Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) funding approved for the current fiscal year…. [but] raising expectations of affordable-housing advocates could pit them against proponents of other budget priorities.” [InsideNova]

Local Defense Attorney to Serve as Fairfax Prosecutor — “Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Steve Descano… announced last Wednesday (Nov. 27) that he intends to have Terry Adams, a private defense attorney in Arlington, take on the role of Chief Deputy, lauding his 14 years working on criminal and civil cases in Virginia.” [Tysons Reporter]

ACFD Assists With School Project — “Tower 104 assisted students [at] Science Focus School today with their annual egg drop. The students were able to collect some data & a good time was had by all.” [Twitter/@ArlingtonVaFD]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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Arlington’s Planning Commission recommend the County Board vote in favor of several site plan amendments that would usher in the future home of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of Amazon’s request to remove a stretch of 14th Road S., and voted 12-1 in favor of a request to build two 22-story office buildings past current zoning restrictions.

The Arlington County Board will have its final vote on the amendments during its meeting next Saturday, December 14.

The unbuilt portion of 14th Road S. was originally planned to serve private residential buildings, per staff report to the Board. But since Amazon now plans to build its two office towers on the lot, there is “no longer the need for the planned 14th Road segment.”

In exchange for modifying zoning requirements to build said office buildings to an expected 2.15 million square feet — including retail space and a shared underground parking garage — Amazon offered the following community incentives:

The affordable housing contribution would be the largest single infusion of money into the AHIF, which has fallen short of its housing goals in recent years.

“The $20 million contribution to AHIF will allow the County to fund over 200 units of committed affordable housing, which will help meet only about one-third of the County’s annual goal for new units when it occurs,” Michelle Winters, director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow. “This contribution is very welcome, although we know that it is only a small part of what Arlington needs to do for affordable housing in the coming years to help replace some of the thousands of affordable units lost over the past several decades.”

During next weekend’s meeting, the County Board will decide between two options for allocating the funds, per Aaron Shriber of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development: the $20 million will either be divided into three separate payments for a variety of projects, or will be pooled into one, unannounced project within the vicinity of Metropolitan Park.

“The problem is [for the second option], that we need to identify the site, but we would love to use that money for a project — [Amazon] is looking at a fairly aggressive construction schedule, and that means the money would come in very soon,” said Shriber. “I do not think we should take lightly the large contribution we were able to receive.”

Amazon representatives also emphasized the company’s intentions to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with LEED Platinum certification and support for transit and green energy.

“We’re close to completing an agreement on a large solar project and will update you when it’s finalized,” said Amazon’s real estate chief John Schoettler told the commission. “It will fully power our HQ2 campus and will be located in Virginia.”

The upcoming solar field is part of a worldwide sustainability project, the company announced today. The Virginia field is expected to produce 80 megawatts of energy and received kudos from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) for helping “lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.”

(One megawatt can power about a thousand homes.)

The company is also pushing its employees to commute via public transit, bike, or carpool instead of driving solo — despite requesting zoning modifications that would allow one parking space per every 1,100 square feet of gross floor area, over 2,000 spaces total.

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Morning Notes

Developer May Give Parking Lot to County — “Arlington County planners and the owner of the Crystal House apartments have struck a deal to turn one of the four proposed buildings in its 798-unit expansion over to the county for affordable housing and public parking. It’s a change that has brought some hope to owners and operators along Crystal City’s restaurant row of 23rd Street, who, for the last few weeks, have criticized [the development] because it could have reduced access to parking spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving — “While Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday, we want to remind you of all the great ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving week in Arlington. Whether you’re traveling or staying locally, these tips will help ensure you have an enjoyable — and safe — Thanksgiving holiday.” [Arlington County]

Dozen Arrested at DCA Protest — “On one of the busiest travel days of the year, American Airlines catering workers held sit-in protests at Reagan National Airport demanding higher pay and better access to healthcare. According to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), 12 individuals were arrested and released on summons… the issue occurred when protesters entered the street and blocked traffic outside the B/C terminal.” [WUSA 9]

TSA Confiscates Loaded Gun at DCAUpdated at 8:20 a.m. — “A Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Monday, November 25.” [Transportation Security Administration]

Local Lawmakers Become Committee Chairs — “Two of the three state senators in Arlington’s legislative delegation will chair committees in the 2020 session, which opens Jan. 8. State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) has been tapped to chair the Senate Committee on Finance, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) will chair the Committee on Rehabilitation & Social Services.” [InsideNova]

Impact of a Casino in N. Va. — “With Virginia’s General Assembly expected to debate casinos and gambling in the upcoming legislative session, its research agency issued a report Monday examining fiscal impacts on the state — including what a casino in Northern Virginia might mean. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study, a Northern Virginia casino would produce $595 million in gaming revenue annually.” [Washington Business Journal]

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It has been a big year for affordable housing in Arlington, from the county initiative “Housing Arlington,” to zoning changes, to new studies.

Heading into the new year, with Amazon’s HQ2 taking shape, two local advocacy groups plan on continuing to push officials on the issue. But one believes more density is the solution, while the other claims increasing the housing supply would wreck community character and the environment.

Peter Rousselot, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) 

In April, Peter Rousselot — a board member of the Together Virginia PAC and ARLnow columnist — founded Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group working to advocate against zoning changes and accelerated density in Arlington. Rousselot previously formed a similar group, Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, to oppose plans for a streetcar along Columbia Pike.

In recent months, flyers spotted across Arlington from ASF argue that “Arlington County has plans to eliminate single-family home zoning and change other regulations” — changes that “would cause a county-wide population surge, escalating taxes, destructive flooding and environmental degradation.”

The flyer cites damage caused by July 8’s historical flooding as evidence that increased development has caused environmental damage.

“Don’t let Arlington become the next Houston,” the flyer says.

“We believe there shouldn’t be any significant further changes in zoning until we have the right planning tools,” Rousselot told ARLnow.

While ASF does not have a website, a copy of its platform provided to ARLnow argues that the county needs the following before implementing zoning changes:

  • A flooding and land use plan utilizing an accepted floodplain management tool
  • A ten-year projected county operating budget for different population and revenue scenarios
  • Community planning tools to assess costs and benefits of different development scenarios

Per the ASF platform, eliminating single-family zoning and adding more density would “transform Arlington from an urban village to a paved metropolis — [affecting] our schools, environment, trees, infrastructure, flooding, taxes, housing affordability, and county budget.”

“Our approach to housing affordability is that we don’t want to see this approach [where the county] accelerates the development of hundreds of new market-rate units in order to create a small number of affordable units,” said Rousselot.

“What we would like to do is redirect county taxpayer money to enable people to afford to live here,” said Rousselot. “That we decide as a community to help them to get the money directly in their hands though things like rental vouchers and housing grants.”

According to Rousselot, there are now more than 100 members in ASF.

Michelle Winters, Arlington for Everyone/Alliance for Housing Solutions 

Founded in 2003, Arlington for Everyone is a public education campaign from the non-profit organization Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS).

The mission of the group is to “make Arlington a place where people from all walks of life are welcome and can afford to live,” per the organization’s website.

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