The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.
McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.
Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.
“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.
To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.
McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.
“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”
Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.
Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.
“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.
Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.
Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”
Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.
“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.
“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.
Local affordable housing provider AHC Inc. is still seeking volunteers to work in its education programs ahead of school resuming next week.
Spaces are still available to help in AHC’s After-School and Teen Tutoring programs, which help educate young people from kindergarten through 12th grade.
In the After-School program, volunteers work with elementary school students to build literacy and math skills, and to help with homework. AHC asks for a commitment of one hour once a week between 4 and 6 p.m.
Teen Tutoring helps foster both academic and life skills to help teens graduate from high school and maximize their potential. Tutors are paired with one student during the school year, and meet for one hour once a week between 6 and 8 p.m.
There will be several orientation sessions in the coming days for both programs:
- September 6 – After-School Orientation, 6-7 p.m. (Gates of Ballston, 4108 4th Street N.)
- September 12 – Teen Tutoring Orientation, 6-7:30 p.m. (Gates of Ballston, 4108 4th Street N.)
- September 14 – Teen Tutoring Orientation, 6-7:30 pm (Gates of Ballston, 4108 4th Street, N.)
In addition to these schemes, AHC offers various others through its resident services program. Earlier this year, 15 high school graduates in the pilot year of its college mentoring program celebrated finishing the program and advancing into higher education.
For more information, potential volunteers should contact Cindy Rozon at [email protected].
Photo via AHC
(Updated August 16, 10:40 a.m.) With the summer almost at an end, several construction projects in Rosslyn and Clarendon are moving along.
In Rosslyn, a new six-story condo building is starting to rise in place of an aging low-rise apartment complex. The project, now called “Key and Nash” in signs posted nearby, will add 63 units at the corner of Key Blvd and N. Nash Street.
The project by Reston-based developer NVR, Inc., the parent company of homebuilder Ryan Homes, looks to be well on the way to completion.
Close by, demolition of the former Wilson School is over, and now workers have cleared the ground to start to lay the foundations for the new building.
The new school at 1601 Wilson Blvd, which will house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, is scheduled to open in fall 2019 and house 775 students across both programs.
But less than a block away, there appears to have been little progress as of yet on the proposed redevelopment of the 39-unit Queens Court apartment complex at 1801 N. Quinn Street.
The County Board approved in February a project by the local nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to bring 249 committed affordable units in a 12-story building.
And in Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, work is continuing on two new residential buildings and a rebuilt substance-abuse recovery facility. Crews and a variety of heavy machinery are on site at the project, known as Gables Pointe 14, at 1307 N. Rolfe Street. The 370 apartments in two buildings, underground parking and an 8,000-square-foot shared park are set to be complete in 2020.
Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement criticized the recent demolitions of more garden apartments in Westover to make way for townhomes.
Clement, a frequent candidate for public office, said the demolition of two more apartment buildings in the neighborhood shows that not enough is being done to protect affordable housing, especially as they are replaced by what she described as “luxury townhomes.”
Much of Westover is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties. Last year, crews tore down a garden apartment building and replaced it with townhouses in by-right development, meaning County Board approval was not required.
At the time, the Arlington Greens called for the Westover apartments to be designated as a local historic district, something the County Board directed staff to study last year. Since 2013, nine garden apartment buildings have been demolished, Clement said.
Clement criticized developers for razing the properties and the county for cashing in thanks to increased property taxes.
“County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million,” Clement said. “The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.”
An advertisement for the Arlington Row townhomes that ran on ARLnow.com earlier this year advertised the homes as being priced in the “mid-$800s.” The townhomes feature up to four bedrooms and four baths, plus private garages and “timeless brick architecture.” The first phase of the development quickly sold out.
Clement said designating the units as a local historic district is the “only way” to save the remaining apartments, but she criticized the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board for not moving faster on a petition to do so that was submitted last year.
She added that the demolition of affordable housing units in the county causes numerous problems:
For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.
For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.
And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.
In a fact sheet produced last year, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing said it made some headway in 2016 by purchasing 68 Westover apartments in five buildings. But APAH noted that since the county adopted its Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, 60 apartments have been demolished for redevelopment.
Clement promised to speed up approval of historic districts to protect affordable housing if she wins a seat on the County Board in November.
“If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market,” Clement said.
Plans for the redevelopment of a seven-acre site in Virginia Square — which include a new apartment building, YMCA facility and affordable housing — are slated to come before the Arlington Planning Commission this fall.
The plans, for several properties around the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road, could result in a new six-story apartment building; a rebuilt, 100,000 square foot YMCA building; and a 161-home affordable housing project. The plans call for retaining American Legion Post 139 on the property.
On its property — the largest parcel on the site — the YMCA says it “intends to redevelop its site to allow for an expanded, world class, modern athletic and community YMCA facility as part of a mixed use project which would also allow for new residential uses on, or adjacent to, the Property.”
Within the site is the Ball family burial ground, designated as a local historic district in 1978 and the resting place of several family members. Given the desire to study the site, individual site plans and construction are still years away from coming to fruition.
The county and its Long Range Planning Committee has spent several months discussing land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole, in advance of a site plan process.
The committee met on July 25 to discuss the latest round of suggestions for land use. Anthony Fusarelli, principal planner in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said in an email “it was suggested” that be the final meeting on the topic, and that the study be advanced to the full Planning Commission.
Ahead of that Planning Commission meeting, which could be as early as September, Fusarelli said an updated study document will be released for community review, incorporating the feedback of LRPC members and the public.
At the meeting of the LRPC last month, county staff presented various options for the site’s land use, while taking into account how buildings’ heights decrease as they get further from a Metro station.
Among those options, staff presented two that would create a so-called “Special District,” which would help coordinate development in the area and set clear guidelines for projects. The area would be designated as the Washington/Kirkwood Coordinated Mixed-Use Development District.
And in terms of density, staff has several options left on the table, including several that would allow for varying types of housing, which they said reflected local residents’ desire to have a transition between the dense Metro corridor and the neighborhood.
Staff also provided an option that would not change any land uses on the site, which they said would allow some development, including a hotel by right that would not require Arlington County Board approval. But they said only “limited improvements” could be made to the YMCA under that plan.
Police will take part in a number of activities with local residents, including block parties, cookouts, safety demonstrations, youth events, visits from emergency personnel and more.
National Night Out aims to better relationships between the police and the communities they patrol. Many police departments around the country participate.
“We are committed to building strong partnerships with those we protect and serve and effectively communicating to ensure the public’s trust.” said spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“Events such as National Night Out are important because they provide us with another opportunity to interact with our community, hear about any public safety concerns they have and continue to use effective problem-solving methods to reduce and prevent crime and improve the quality of life of Arlington’s residents, visitors and businesses.”
Events will be hosted at the following locations:
- Arlington Forest (200 block of N. Galveston Street) at 7:30 p.m.
- Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (First Presbyterian Church, 601 N. Vermont Street) from 5:30-8 p.m.
- Barcroft Community House (800 S. Buchanan Street) from 6-7:30 p.m.
- Cathcart Springs townhomes (4600 4th Road N.) from 6:30-7 p.m.
- Fairlington Villages (3000 block of S. Abingdon Street) from 5-7 p.m.
- Park Glen Condo Association (800 block of S. Arlington Mill Road) from 7-8 p.m.
- Nauck Town Square (24th Road S. between Shirlington Road and S. Kenmore Street) from 6-8:30 p.m.
Just feet from the demolition of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike, officials broke ground Thursday (July 27) on the new affordable housing complex that will replace it.
Gilliam Place at 3507 Columbia Pike will have 173 affordable apartments, with 68 including two or three bedrooms. The ground floor of the property will contain nearly 9,000 square feet of space for retail and community use. It is named for Ronda Gilliam, a member of the church who volunteered in the community and opened a clothing donation center.
It all began in 2012 when members of the church reached out to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing as they wanted to sell their property and create a space for affordable housing.
The new building will incorporate stone from the old church, which APAH board chair John Milliken said will be “instilled with the spirit and compassion that congregation embodied and will pass on to this new generation.”
And while the congregants are displaced from their original space, they have already guaranteed themselves a presence on the site after buying two plots of land for use as green space.
Derrick Weston, the church’s community organizer, said it will be designated as a sanctuary area for meditation. The church may also return to use the new building as a permanent home; during construction they are using a temporary space at the Arlington United Methodist Church (716 S. Glebe Road).
“This is our new front door. This is our front porch,” Weston said. “This is where people are going to visit and see who we are.”
The $71 million project is funded through various sources, including an $18.1 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, federal low-income housing tax credits authorized by the Virginia Housing Development Authority, private money from Capital One and Enterprise Community Partners totaling $31 million and donations from church members.
Susan Etherton, the chair of the church’s Moving Forward Team, said that the partnerships between various organizations were key in the church getting to this point.
“God gave us that vision, but without faithful partners, we would have been unable to accomplish that vision,” she said.
“Just think how much can be done when a group of well-meaning people all pull together in the same direction,” added APAH president and CEO Nina Janopaul.
The church, which was hit by a fire last year, is being demolished by construction crews. The building of Gilliam Place is expected to take about two years.
(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Homeowners could find it considerably easier to add an “accessory dwelling unit” to their property under changes set to be made to the ordinance in the fall.
Only 20 ADUs — defined as a second living space with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009. Advocates have said they can help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.
Staff is recommending that the Board allow detached ADUs, set back from the main house, and bump up the maximum occupancy from two to three. Currently in Arlington ADUs are only allowed within a single-family home.
At a work session Tuesday with county staff, Arlington County Board members debated various other recommendations, focusing in on a few.
Board members discussed staff’s recommendation of maintaining the current cap of ADU approvals at 28 a year countywide. Chair Jay Fisette and member Christian Dorsey suggested removing the cap altogether.
“Even at the likely installation rates, we’re not talking about a big impact on our community,” said Dorsey. “And who’s to say that if the 29th application is really the ideal, textbook accessory dwelling location and circumstance, we have to say no because we’re going to cap it? … It just really seems insane.”
But others were not so sure about removing the cap. Board member John Vihstadt suggested looking into capping new ADUs by civic association or neighborhood to prevent a concentration in one place, something others were happy to go along with in lieu of abolishing the cap altogether.
Joel Franklin, a housing planner at the county department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, added that staff will undertake an annual survey to try and find any issues that may arise.
The Board also explored raising the maximum number of people allowed to live in an ADU. The current maximum is two, with staff recommending that be increased to three, but several wanted more work to be done to explore whether that limit could be raised further.
Vice chair Katie Cristol said consistency is key, and that it becomes difficult when “governing the number of people in a bedroom.” But Vihstadt and Fisette were not so sure, and inclined to stick with the staff recommendation.
“It’s one thing to stay one or two nights in a crowded hotel room when you’re on vacation with the kids or friends or whatever,” Vihstadt said. “It’s another thing to have that crowded condition on a monthly or long-term basis.”
Staff suggested various rules for the units, including that their front doors can be on the same side as long as they do not face, and that exterior stairways must not face the street, among others.
Those rules are designed to protect the character of neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes. County staff members will continue to study the various policies governing aesthetics, they said.
“This is really a significant body of work. This is a use that I think we should be welcoming in our community while being cognizant of impacts on neighborhoods and protecting and planning against them,” said Cristol. “I would hate to lose this opportunity in any house or lot because somebody’s front door is placed in the wrong place.”
A slight change to the parking requirements for properties with ADUs has also been proposed.
Staff will compile the results of the survey on accessory dwellings this month, then finalize its recommendations. The Zoning and Housing Commissions will examine staff’s plans, with the Planning Commission and County Board expected to take final action in November.
Rough Day on the Roads — An already rain-soaked Thursday was made worse after a tree fell across the eastbound lanes of I-66, blocking the highway during the morning rush hour. Later, the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway were closed near the Key Bridge due to a crash. [WJLA, Washington Post]
Arlington Helps Out With Falls Church Graduation — Arlington voluntarily shifted its high school graduation schedule to help Falls Church’s George Mason High School get a graduation ceremony spot at D.A.R. Constitution Hall last month. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Affordable Housing Decline in Alexandria — There was a 90 percent drop in affordable housing units in Alexandria between 2000 and 2017 and the decline is likely to continue without the construction of more dedicated affordable units. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A plan to revamp Interstate 66 is threatening the character of the Custis Memorial Parkway, the highway’s name inside the Capital Beltway, historic preservation advocates said today (Wednesday).
Preservation Arlington, a nonprofit group that looks to protect Arlington’s architectural heritage, released its annual list of “endangered historic places,” with the parkway named as one.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the midst of an ambitious plan known as “Transform 66” to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston within the existing eastbound right-of-way.
But Preservation Arlington said the plan could undermine “the roadway’s unique parkway design.”
“Plantings are no longer maintained. Corten steel guardrails and sign supports are being replaced with standard, steel interstate highway components,” the group wrote. “The new toll road gantries, and large, new sign supports (and highway signage) on nearby arterial roads have further eroded the parkway’s ability to blend into its surroundings.”
Another piece of history under threat, according to Preservation Arlington, are the Education Center and Planetarium, chosen last week by the Arlington County School Board for an extra 500-600 high school seats and a renovation.
“While some exterior improvements will be necessary it is hoped that this will be minimal and will not alter the appearance of the historic structure,” Preservation Arlington wrote. “Designed as a headquarters building to show the strength and commitment to education, the building is iconic in our community.”
Also under threat, according to Preservation Arlington:
- 1000-series Metro cars, retired this month for safety reasons
- Community buildings like those for churches and service organizations
- Four Mile Run industrial area
- Housing stock from before World War II, with the continued loss of these homes “erasing Arlington’s architectural and community history.”
Image via VDOT presentation
Fairlington Named ‘Top Value Neighborhood’ — Fairlington and Shirlington are together the No. 3 “top value neighborhood” in the D.C. area, according to real estate website Trulia. No. 1 is University Park in Maryland and No. 2. is Kingman Park in D.C. [Curbed]
Market-Rate Affordable Housing Disappearing — In 2000 there were 19,740 homes in Arlington affordable to those making 60 percent of Area Median Income. That dropped by 86 percent, to 2,780 units, by the end of 2016. [Washington Business Journal]
Police Focused on Opioid Abuse — Yesterday the Arlington County Police Department “participated in a discussion on regional law enforcement efforts aimed at reducing the growing heroin/opiate epidemic.” There are at least three addiction treatment facilities in Arlington and ACPD “strongly encourages substances users and their family members to seek assistance.” [Arlington County]
Native Plants Return Thanks to Management of Invasives — “Native plants are on the comeback trail in Arlington – particularly along the W&OD Trail in Bluemont and Glencarlyn parks. Last month Dominion Energy mowed green space beneath powerlines along the trail, helping the County manage invasive plants like Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose.” [Arlington County]
All 15 high school graduates from the pilot year of AHC Inc.’s new college guidance program will progress into higher education.
This year, the seniors applied to 71 schools and were accepted into 54. Together, they received nearly $500,000 in scholarship money, including full rides to Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania. Many of the students are the first members of their family to attend college.
AHC, an Arlington-based affordable housing provider, hosted a celebration Monday night at the Lyon Park Community Center for the graduates, their families and mentors.
The free mentoring program is part of AHC’s resident services program, which began in 1993. The initiative is designed to provide students of all ages with something productive to do in their afternoons.
The program includes after-school activities for elementary school students, tutoring for middle and high school students and now a mentoring program to help high school seniors with the college process.
Each senior is paired with an adult for an entire year. The mentors aid their students with the college process, including financial aid, essays and scholarship applications.
Jasmine Connor began working with her mentor, Marjorie Macieria, in the fall.
“Working with Marjorie was the best. We clicked,” Connor said.
The two met weekly, primarily focusing on scholarship applications, of which Connor has received two: the “We Are the Dream” oratorical scholarship and the Arlington School Administrators Spirit Award. The scholarships will help fund Connor’s ambition to graduate debt-free from Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
Connor plans to pursue a major in Early Childhood Development with a minor in Special Education. She has been inspired by her own teachers to help students with learning disabilities.
“Just because you have a learning disability, that doesn’t mean anything,” she said. ”I have one and I got two scholarships and I’m going to college.”
Kyle Yapching-Galang began working with his mentor, Carter Vaden, in the seventh grade. Initially, she tutored him in French and then branched out to help him with English. While Vaden did not help Yapching-Galang with his college applications, she has been a part of his school career for six years.
“She’s a really good friend who helps me when I’m struggling or when I’m angsty,” Yapching-Galang said.
Vaden said she has seen Yapching-Galang grown from a shy middle-schooler into a confident adult. Yapching-Galang plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall.
Zanab Farooq has been attending AHC’s programs since pre-school. Yet, she credits her mentor of the past year, Joseph Maltby, for helping her get into college.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten into college without him,” Farooq said. “He knew what to do, what not to do and how to stay on top of things.”
Farooq will be attending the University of Mary Washington in the fall, where she hopes to major in Marketing. With various scholarships secured, all she has to pay for is textbooks and a meal plan.
During the celebratory dinner, guest speaker and local Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he was proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“You are what we need. You are medicine,” he said. “You are the source of pleasure and accomplishment and hope for everything that ails every community. Your thirst for education and knowledge and the fact that you’ve done it, says so much about you.”
Yorktown Girls Win Soccer Championship — The Yorktown girls soccer team has won the state Group 6A championship for the first time, defeating the Kellam Knights 1-0 on Saturday. The state champs placed second in a regional tournament to reach the state finals. [InsideNova]
Arlington Triathlon Held — Kids ages 7-15 woke up early to participate in the Arlington Triathlon at Washington-Lee High School over the weekend. [WTOP]
Gunston Getting More Seats — Thanks to a proposed $651,000 internal modification project, Gunston Middle School will be able to add 72 seats, increasing its overall capacity to 1,004 students. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Alexandria Struggles With Housing Promise — “The escalating cost of construction and dramatic changes in how affordable housing is financed are leading Alexandria officials to consider modifying a requirement to replace any of its 1,150 public housing units that are redeveloped with equally priced apartments.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The county’s ordinance on accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites,” is set for some changes after staff and a citizen group put together some initial ideas.
Only 20 ADUs — defined as a second place to live on a property, with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since the ordinance first came into effect in 2009.
In a bid to encourage more accessory dwellings, the county convened a working group, which has come up with several proposals, including:
- ADUs would be allowed in townhomes. (Currently they are only allowed on the inside of a single-family home.)
- ADUs would be allowed to exist as detached dwellings.
- The maximum allowed size would be increased from 750 to 1,000 square feet
- The maximum occupancy would be increased from two people to three to allow for couples with a child or similar circumstances.
- The requirement that accessory dwellings can also only be added after a year of ownership would be removed, meaning home builders could begin to add them in new homes.
In March, local economist Eric Brescia, a member of the County Housing Commission and the Arlington County Republican Committee’s policy director, said there are too many “poison pills” preventing further approvals of accessory dwellings. He argued that relaxing regulations could help ease the county’s lack of affordable housing.
Staff will share these preliminary ideas and more at a community meeting Saturday, from 10 a.m. to noon at Francis Scott Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd).
The Woodbury Park apartment complex in Courthouse will celebrate the end of its revamp with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4:30 p.m. today.
The community, which includes 204 affordable and 160 market-rate apartments at 2306 11th Street N, underwent a two-year renovation. It has been owned by regional affordable housing agency AHC since 1987.
Construction crews restored and updated the property’s mix of red and blonde brick masonry, gabled and flat roofing and porticoes at its entrances.
The seven brick buildings also received repairs and new paint, along with new roofs, windows and plantings. The courtyard also was re-bricked. Inside, the apartments received new kitchens, bathrooms, flooring and electrical systems.
And what was once under-utilized space has been turned into a leasing office and a community center, which includes an exercise room and gathering area with a large TV, game table and seating.
The renovation came from various funding sources including Historic Tax Credits, and did not require use of Arlington County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
Woodbury Park was built in the 1940s, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Photo via AHC, Inc.