Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Holiday Closures Start Tomorrow — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Friday, July 3, 2020, for observation of Independence Day… Metered parking [will not be] enforced July 3-4.” [Arlington County]

Affordable Housing Provider Celebrates Scholarships — “Celebrating graduation may have looked a little different this year, but we could not be any prouder of the students from our College and Career Readiness (CCR) program who graduated from high school in 2020. All 31 of the amazing young people who participated in the program this year are off to college in the fall. In total, they were accepted into 135 schools and received an estimated $1.24 million in scholarships and aid.” [AHC Inc.]

Animal Welfare League Not Reopening Yet — “For the health and safety our staff, volunteers, and the public, we have decided to remain closed for the public, but we expect to introduce in-person adoption by appointment on a very limited basis in the coming days. We also hope to begin selling spay and neuter vouchers online very soon.” [Facebook]

New Pedestrian Law Now in Effect — “Drivers must now fully stop, not just yield, for pedestrians in all crosswalks in Virginia or they could be slapped with a $500 fine. The law that went into effect Wednesday, July 1 requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in any marked or unmarked crosswalk… Last year there were 166 crashes in Arlington involving pedestrians. Four people were killed.” [NBC 4]

Another I-395 Daredevil Caught on Camera — It keeps happening: this time, a commercial vehicle was caught on video backing up and crossing all lanes of northbound I-395 to reach the HOV bridge into D.C. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Waiving Affordable Housing Loan Payments — “The Board approved allowing borrowers of County Multifamily Revolving Loan Funds the option of waiving their 2020 loan payments if they commit to using the money to address rent and vacancy losses and emergency needs that are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Arlington County]

County Delaying Purchase of Property Near Shirlington — “In order to keep their options open, the Arlington County Board will make another $175,000 payment to hold open the possibility of acquiring two parcels adjacent to the Arlington Cultural Affairs facility in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

Masks Required at County Courthouse — “Beginning May 22, 2020, cloth facial coverings will be available for all people who do not have one as they enter the Arlington County Courthouse, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced. This comes after the Honorable Judge Newman, Arlington County Chief Judge, ordered that all patrons who enter the Courthouse will be required to wear a cloth face covering or face mask.” [Arlington County]

Chamber Supports Extra Outdoor Dining Space — “Allowing restaurants to use parking lots and street parking spaces for additional outdoor capacity, similar to how they have been allowed to reserve parking space for carryout patrons, will provide additional flexibility for socially distanced service. We also encourage the County to consider block closures where restaurants may set up tables on a pedestrianized right of way to expand overall capacity.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Pair in Stolen SUV Crash into Parked Cars — “The victim’s Ford F-150 was parked when he observed the unknown suspect enter it and and drive away. An officer en route to the call for service observed the F-150 and a Toyota Land Cruiser in the area travelling at high rates of speed. The officer attempted to effect a traffic stop on the F-150, however, it the driver refused to stop and fled onto I-395 NB. The Land Cruiser, which had previously been reported stolen out of Arlington, was later located, unoccupied, after it crashed into multiple parked vehicles.” [Arlington County]

Fund Established for Gutshall’s Kids — “A memorial fund to support the education of the late County Board member Erik Gutshall’s children has been established… The fund was established by a ‘generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.'” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Fairfax Parks Reopening — “The Park Authority has begun reopening of parking lots and parks in the park system to be open for the Memorial Day weekend. Park Authority staff will begin the process of clearing barricades and opening parking lots at all 427 parks for our community on Wednesday, May 20 through Friday, May 22. These parks will reopen for limited use in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.” [Fairfax County]

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Construction is starting this week on the mixed-use replacement to American Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square.

The project, which was approved in 2019, will build 160-units of affordable housing on the current American Legion site at 3445 Washington Blvd, as well as a new, modern space for Post 139. Half of the apartments will be earmarked for vets.

“Veterans will be given priority placement in half of the building’s 160 apartment homes – making it Virginia’s largest affordable housing project for veterans,” a spokeswoman noted.

The $80 million redevelopment has received $33.8 million in tax credits from the state, a $11.5 million loan from Arlington’s affordable housing fund, and several large donations — including $1.5 million from real estate titan Ron Terwilliger, for whose parents the building will now be named, and $1 million from Amazon.

A groundbreaking ceremony has been postponed due to the pandemic, but the financing has been finalized and construction is slated to start this week. Work is expected to wrap up in 2022.

In preparation for demolition, the flag outside the American Legion post — flown there since the 1950s was recently retired. A video documented the ceremony.

A press release about the groundbreaking is below.

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

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining the board of the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS).

The Alliance advocates for affordable housing in Arlington that meet the needs of all income levels and stages of life. This includes both committed affordable housing developments that are income restricted for low-income residents and market-oriented solutions such as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) that will provide unsubsidized lower-cost housing.

This year, Arlington is at a cross-roads that will determine our commitment to affordable housing. I hope you’ll join me and other AHS supporters to call on the County Board to grow our stock of committed affordable housing with a strategic investment of $25 million in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF or “A-Hif”) is a low-interest loan program that helps developers build and preserve committed affordable housing in Arlington County. It is a revolving fund that receives money from private developers (like $20 million from Amazon for the first phase of HQ2), federal grants, and County contributions.

The County Board distributes AHIF loans to worthy projects, which affordable housing developers use to build or renovate multi-family properties. These developers then repay their AHIF loans, putting the money back in the fund to be used for future projects. This revolving fund is a catalyst for affordable housing developers to get the financing they need to increase our supply of income-restricted units.

In the last twenty years, low-income Arlingtonians have faced increased rent pressure. Because of increased demand and redevelopment, we’ve lost over 16,000 unsubsidized apartments in the open low-rent market that had been affordable to lower-income households. The County is attempting to make up the deficit by investing in committed affordable units. But they’ve only been able to reach half their goal each of the last five years. That means we’re falling further behind, as 28,000 Arlingtonians try to find decent affordable housing on an income of $36,000 per year.

Since adopting the Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015, the County Board has allocated an average of $14.3 million to AHIF and added only 298 units each year, when their annual goal is 600 units. We now have a 1,500 unit deficit and only 9% of our housing stock is affordable to families making 60% of the Area Median Income or less, which is about half of what we need to accommodate our low-income neighbors. We can’t keep taking the same action and expect better results. This year, the Board needs to take bold action by allocating $25 million to AHIF, an increase of $9 million.

The County Manager released the FY 2021 budget, which includes only $2.7 million more for AHIF. Another $2.3 million could come from Columbia Pike Tax Increment Financing and potentially another $2 million from a future increase in the County’s cigarette tax. If adopted, this could increase AHIF by a maximum of $7 million. The County Board would have to vote for all of these options, and the amount would still be below our goal of $9 million in new funds.

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Morning Notes

This Week’s Crystal City Garage Races Postponed — “Attention garage racers and friends: Tomorrow’s Crystal City races are postponed. We are operating with an abundance of caution after an employee of a tenant in the 201 12th St. S. complex was quarantined because of COVID-19. The complex common areas were cleaned and disinfected, today, but we are holding off before racing again.” [Facebook]

Deep Clean for Rosslyn-Based News Outlet — “Politico has asked several reporters who covered CPAC to self-quarantine over coronavirus concerns. It’s also sanitizing/disinfecting its office.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]

Winter is Over, Unofficially — “Winter was barely perceptible in Washington this year, and now, we can put a fork in it. We see no more potential for enduring cold or substantial snowfall. Spring is here.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Whitlow’s Rooftop Opens — “Rooftop opens for the season tonight at 5 p.m.! How’s that for a Monday?” [Twitter]

Neighborhood College Applications Open — “Learn how to become a neighborhood advocate and effect change through Arlington County’s free Neighborhood College program, which will meet on eight consecutive Thursday evenings beginning April 23.” [Arlington County]

Developers Pitch in to Help Housing Nonprofit — “Absent a budget from a central housing authority, APAH ‘can’t afford not to’ maintain solid relationships with developers — who donate, serve on its board and train future APAH staffers. ‘We’re blessed by their generosity,’ Janopaul says, citing Arlington builders Tim Naughton of AvalonBay Communities Inc., John Shooshan of the Shooshan Co. and Andy VanHorn at JBG Smith.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo courtesy Josh Folb

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The Arlington View Terrace apartments, which mostly have views of part of the Army-Navy Country Club golf course, are set for redevelopment.

The Arlington County Board last week allocated just over $8 million — a $7.25 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and a nearly $1 million grant — to help fund the redevelopment of the aging apartment complex at 1420 S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood on the eastern end of Columbia Pike.

The 30-unit garden-style apartment complex is set to be torn down and replaced by a new building with 77 apartments, affordable for those making 30-60% of Area Median Income, according to local affordable housing developer AHC Inc.

“The Arlington View Terrace redevelopment enables AHC to add much-needed affordable living opportunities in a rapidly gentrifying area along Columbia Pike,” AHC President and CEO Walter Webdale said in a statement. “The new building will also help diversify housing options with 15 new three-bedroom apartments, eight fully accessible units and 10% of the new apartments designated for households earning no more than 30% AMI.”

A press release notes that AHC is “also exploring solar panels and a possible partnership with Connect Arlington to provide free Wi-Fi for residents at the site.”

AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater tells ARLnow that “if all goes well, we could start construction in Spring 2021 and open doors to new families in Spring 2023.”

“We are working with a relocation firm to help [current residents] move temporarily to other apartments – hopefully other nearby AHC properties,” she added. “All current residents will have first opportunity to move back into the new apartments. We work one-on-one with individuals and families to meet their needs – like trying to keep kids in the same schools if possible, etc.”

Arlington View Terrace is one of a number of Form Based Code developments along the Columbia Pike corridor currently making their way through the development pipeline.

The full press release from AHC Inc. is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Ballston-Based E*TRADE Acquired —  “Morgan Stanley and E*TRADE Financial Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement under which Morgan Stanley will acquire E*TRADE, a leading financial services company and pioneer in the online brokerage industry, in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $13 billion.” [BusinessWire, Wall Street Journal]

County Wants Feedback on Capital Projects — “As part of this year’s budget season, you’re invited to share your input on capital priorities for Arlington County Government. Where should we make investments? Which types of projects top your list? We want to know what you think. Your input will help guide development of the County Manager’s Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Fiscal Years 2021 – 2030, which will be presented to the Arlington County Board in May.” [Arlington County]

More on Upcoming EPA Move — “‘Facing budget constraints during the past few years, the agency has tried to reduce impacts on its programs by using rent savings to absorb appropriations cuts,’ said the EPA spokeswoman. ‘The lease for [Potomac Yard South] expires in March 2021 and by not renewing it, the agency can expect to attain approximately $12.7 million in rent savings annually,’ she said.” [E&E News]

New AED Director Settling In — “Tucker is pledging not to lose focus on helping the county’s existing businesses, particularly its small, family-owned companies. Critics of AED have long accused it of pursuing large corporate tenants at the expense of supporting mom-and-pop shops, a perception Tucker is keen to reverse.” [Washington Business Journal]

AHC Returns $$$ to Affordable Housing Fund — “AHC Inc., an Arlington, VA-based affordable housing developer, deposited more than $710,000 this week into the County’s revolving low-interest loan program, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). This year’s annual repayment boosts AHC’s total repayments to more than $45 million since the AHIF program began in 1988. The payments vary from year to year. Last year, AHC returned $4.9 million to the fund.” [Press Release]

Saturday: Census ‘Celebración Comunitaria’ — “Join us at the Gates of Ballston Community Center for food, family activities, an art contest, a kid’s raffle, and information about the upcoming 2020 Census 2020! Event sponsored by Arlington County, Census 2020, Alfo-Conce, Producciones POPB’IL.” [Arlington County]

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Arlington County is in the midst of a “Missing Middle Housing Study,” to determine whether legalizing additional housing types in certain areas could  “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington.”

So what is “missing middle housing” anyhow?

It’s described by Opticos Design, whose founder claims to have coined the term, as “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types — compatible in scale with detached single-family homes — that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban living.”

Alternately, Wikipedia describes it as “multi-unit housing types such as duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts, and mansion apartments that are not bigger than a large house, that are integrated throughout most walkable pre-1940s neighborhoods, often [on] blocks with primarily single-family homes, and that provide diverse housing choices and generate enough density to support transit and locally-serving commercial amenities.”

In a nutshell, missing middle housing is what’s between single-family detached homes and mid-rise apartment buildings, including duplexes, townhouses and fourplex apartments. And Arlington County is studying zoning changes that would allow it in certain places, to increase housing supply and provide alternatives to moderate-income households that can’t afford pricy detached homes (median sale price in 2019: about $950,000, compared to $575,000 for townhouses and duplexes.)

In a recent webinar, below, county staffers said the study is being conducted as housing costs rise and the county’s population is expected to exceed 300,000 by 2045.

Without finding ways to increase the housing stock and the types of housing in the county, the webinar suggested, Arlington will become more expensive and less diverse.

Current building trends, according to the presentation, are skewed toward the replacement of smaller, older homes with large, luxury houses in single-family home neighborhoods, while developers build small one- and two-bedroom apartments and condos along Metro corridors.

Neither are good options for a family of moderate means.

“We have a gap in housing options here in Arlington,” the presentation said. “Arlington’s Metro corridors offer smaller apartment and condo units in medium to high density buildings, however that style of housing does not suit everyone’s needs. Other neighborhoods offer single-family homes or townhomes and only a very limited quantity of other housing types.”

“If we do nothing to address these challenges, the existing housing stock will continue to get more and more expensive while existing mid-sized homes will continue to be replaced by large single-family homes and very little else,” the presenter continued. “Arlington’s vision to be diverse and inclusive will become less and less attainable. Our lowest income households are at home risk of being squeezed out, while moderate income households will also be at risk, further burdened with rising housing costs and potentially unable… to stay here.”

The webinar went on to explain the history of Arlington’s zoning ordinance, which echoes the history of such zoning decisions in many other communities. Currently, the zoning ordinance prevents duplexes and triplexes in most neighborhoods.

“A recent study found that 73 percent of the land zoned for residential use in Arlington is zoned exclusively for single-family detached housing,” the presenter said. “These zoning restrictions originated in early 20th century decisions that required the separation of different housing types. This enabled patterns of racial and economic segregation and the repercussions of that persist today.”

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Arlington County is currently working through a plan to add more options for housing through zoning changes, but there was disagreement during a recent Transportation Commission meeting over whether greater diversity of housing types will actually help with affordability.

Staff at the Transportation Commission noted that what’s being built these days are typically either condos and apartments or huge single-family homes. Townhouses and smaller, “starter” homes are more rare, resulting in a shrinking supply of housing accessible to young families.

“Neighborhoods are changing,” staff said. “Even without any intervention that will continue to change. New construction is either very large homes or smaller units in Metro corridors. Only 6% are three bedrooms or more, and that creates some tension as people seek to find housing for growing families.”

While affordable, mid-size units are in demand, the most lucrative options for developers are the higher-priced, luxury housing. Without some sort of intervention, staff said the neighborhoods will continue to become more expensive.

A framework for the Missing Middle Housing Study released in late December said the goals of the plan are:

  • A shared definition for the term “missing middle housing” for Arlington
  • A set of policy options to support preservation of existing Missing Middle housing stock and production of new Missing Middle housing types for County Board consideration
  • Identification of additional considerations relating to the Comprehensive Plan and other County policies and practices to be further reviewed in support of the goals of this process
  • The ability for new housing type alternatives to be built that meet Arlington’s definition of ‘missing middle housing”, offering greater affordability and design that is complementary and compatible with the scale and style of their intended neighborhoods

Part of that framework also dealt with “locational factors” for missing-middle housing.

“Building more housing… where people shop and work and have easy access to transit is one of the few things we can do in a small community to lessen our carbon impact,” said Transportation Commission member Chris Yarie. “Really drive the pedal down on that a lot, please.”

Transportation Commission member Audrey Clement was more wary of the plan, saying that it calls to increase types of housing but says nothing about affordability or equity. Instead, Clement echoed concerns of some in Arlington that the plan is an effort to quietly curtail single-family zoning.

“This is about the densification of the county and further gentrification of the county,” Clement said. “Given that is implied in the goals, to implement such a plan would require upzoning. Therefore it is disingenuous to say this is not about upzoning because that’s precisely what would be required to increase housing in residential neighborhoods.”

Clement pointed to the Veitch Street home to be replaced by several townhouses, discussed earlier in that same meeting.

“We’re really replacing every million-dollar home with up to seven million-dollar homes on residential lots,” Clement said. “That will serve the purpose of densifying the county, but it won’t provide more affordable housing and it’s a misnomer to call this a Missing Middle plan.”

Clement’s concerns are echoed by Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group “concerned about Arlington County’s accelerated population growth and density” and its effect on water infrastructure, schools and transportation systems.

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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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