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Morning Notes

New AG Targets N. Va. Prosecutors — “Virginia Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares said that he and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will pursue legislation to enable the state’s attorney general to circumvent ‘social justice’ commonwealth’s attorneys who refuse to vigorously prosecute crimes. At a news conference on Thursday, Miyares laid out ‘one of our major legislative initiatives’ which Youngkin ‘has already indicated that he would sign… into law.'” [Fox News]

Department Bans ‘Kill’ from Feedback — From Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt: “Today I learned it’s against our ‘Community Guidelines’ to tell DES that their designs are going to get someone killed.” [Twitter]

Younger Va. Voters Get Less Blue — From ARLnow opinion columnist Nicole Merlene: “Millennials and Gen Z swung almost 10% from Ds to Rs in the #VAGov election. That is ONE THIRD of voters in Virginia. More % of voters than college educated white women — so why are they the story?” [Twitter]

Local Legion Post Getting New Flagpole — “The Arlington House chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution on Oct. 28 presented a financial contribution in support of the effort to raise a new flagpole at the post, which is being redeveloped in partnership with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH). DAR chapter regent Nancy Weinberg in 2020 contacted Bob Romano, then-post commander of Sgt. Dorothy M. Doyle American Legion Post 139, to discuss what could be done to assist Post 139 during the construction period.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 54. Sunrise at 7:40 a.m. and sunset at 6:03 p.m. Saturday will be sunny, with a high near 56, while Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 58.

Join the ARLnow Press Club — Get the Morning Notes early and find out what we’re planning to cover that day. Plus exclusive text alerts, insights and more. Sign up now.

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After initially failing to garner enough votes from the regional Transportation Planning Board, a controversial project to widen I-270 in Maryland and replace the American Legion Bridge is back on.

And Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey, who sits on the regional board, was one of the leaders who flipped his vote from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes.’

Dorsey appeared on WAMU’s The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi on Friday to talk about why he flipped his vote. Dorsey also explained the powers and limitations of the newly created Community Oversight Board, which provides oversight over the conduct of officers in the Arlington County Police Department.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature project would add two high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction to part of its Beltway and lower I-270. The toll system would connect with Northern Virginia’s toll lanes on I-495 and 395.

Supporters say the project will relieve intense bottleneck, but in June, Dorsey said it was “not ready for prime time,” according to the show. In the interim month, the project was revised and Hogan’s team reportedly spent significant time lobbying those who voted ‘no.’ The board voted 28-10 in favor of the project.

Dorsey said his vote hinged on funding for public transit, as lower congestion could encourage more single-occupancy vehicle traffic. He denied being contacted by Hogan’s office, but said he was contacted by “targeted campaigns.”

“What was missing was a commitment to provide the funding to make sure locally-developed transit solutions could be developed, and could be constructed and operated in the long term,” he said.

The project now includes state funding to design bus lanes for the expanded highway, in addition to $300 million in private funding for transit projects. Dorsey said the revised project also outlines timelines and efforts for transit projects, he said.

“There was significant progress  — at least enough progress for me to move it along in the regional planning process,” Dorsey said.

The Maryland Board of Public Works is set to vote on the project later this summer, according to the show.

Dorsey also clarified the roles of the Community Oversight Board, which has investigative and subpoena power. The board will have an independent policing auditor who can conduct an investigation alongside one being conducted internally by ACPD.

“If for some reason in that concurrent [model], which we think is artfully designed, records are withheld, it has ability to get them via subpoena,” he said. “We hope it’s rarely used, as that means the concurrent model not working.”

(The Arlington branch of the NAACP has criticized the County Board for not granting the oversight board the full powers recently granted by the state legislature.)

Since County Manager Mark Schwartz hires staff, including police officers, a Community Oversight Board with county staff would not be effectively independent, Dorsey said. The solution was to create an independent policing auditor who is accountable to the oversight board and who ensures investigations take place.

The Board voted against a provision setting aside three seats on the oversight board for people of color or people from marginalized groups.

“This is not about saying there shouldn’t be three people of color on the board, but that we shouldn’t send a signal that three is somehow an acceptable minimum,” Dorsey said. “Most [members] should be people of color, from my perspective.”

Dorsey said he does not deny that ACPD has had occasional issues worthy of scrutiny, but “overall, we’ve had a professional and effective and trustworthy police department.”

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American Legion Post 85 in Virginia Square is getting a new mural.

The post at 919 N. Kansas Street — not to be confused with the nearby, under-construction Post 139 two blocks away — commissioned the work from Falls Church artist Mary Tjeng, who was busy painting when ARLnow stopped by Thursday afternoon.

The mural depicts Gen. Billy Mitchell, the post’s namesake and the “father of the U.S. Air Force.”

Mitchell “is one of the most famous and most controversial figures in the history of American airpower,” says an old website for the Legion post. “So great was his impact on the Army Air Service and its successor organizations that the effect is still being felt. During Mitchell’s meteoric military career, he charted new paths, set new standards, and influenced key leaders for decades to come.”

“Mitchell was twenty years ahead of his time when he put forth his detailed vision of a hazardous future,” the website says of the general, who served in World War I and died in 1936 after retiring to a farm in Middleburg. “He is also the only individual after whom a type of American military aircraft, the B-25 Mitchell, is named.”

The mural, which recently received some attention from National Defense magazine’s Twitter account, will adorn an exterior wall that’s partially visible from Wilson Blvd.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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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.

Read More

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Morning Notes

HQ2 to Include Banana Stand, Local Businesses — “Schoettler said the outdoor areas will likely include elements from its Seattle headquarters, such as a community vegetable garden and a banana stand… Amazon’s in-house food program will only serve about one-quarter of the HQ2 workforce, encouraging the majority of the employees to each lunch at nearby businesses. And because Amazon will own the buildings, Schoettler said it will be able to curate the retail to focus on locally owned businesses.” [Bisnow, WAMU, Washington Business Journal]

County Again Recognized for Tech Savvy — “Arlington County is once again among the top ranked digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2019 award designated Arlington second place in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

Legion Development a National Model? — “Post 139 and APAH’s partnership should serve as an example for addressing the issue of homeless veterans, said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer of nonprofit U.S.VETS… In 2018, there were 12,806 American Legion posts across the country, a huge inventory of property that could be repurposed as affordable housing.” [Politico]

Helicopter Noise Amendment Passes House — “The House of Representatives adopted a set of amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, including two offered by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which would address helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.” [Press Release]

ACPD: Lock Your Car and House — “The Arlington County Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies throughout the country in a public safety campaign aimed at promoting crime prevention strategies to reduce and prevent thefts from vehicles and homes. The campaign, known as the 9 P.M. Routine, encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.” [Arlington County]

APS Teacher Receives National Recognition — “Wilfredo Padilla Melendez, teacher at Claremont Immersion School, received Instructure’s 2019 Educator of the Year Award. Wilfredo was recognized as one of six educators who go above and beyond to redefine traditional classroom activities.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Arlington VA/Flickr

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County leaders have now given the green light to plans to redevelop the American Legion post in Virginia Square into an affordable housing complex, a project widely hailed as an innovative effort to provide reasonably priced homes to veterans.

The County Board voted unanimously Saturday (Feb. 23) to approve plans from the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to replace the Legion’s current home with a new seven-story structure. The building will have room for 160 apartments — half will be set aside specifically for veterans, and all of them are guaranteed to be affordable to people of more modest means for the next 75 years.

The development, located at 3445 Washington Blvd, will also include 8,000 square feet on its ground floor for American Legion Post 139 to stay on the property. The Legion has owned the roughly 1.3-acre property since the 1930s, but opted to sell it to APAH in 2016 after the nonprofit sketched out plans for a new complex decided to helping local veterans.

“Unfortunately, the high cost of housing has put Arlington out of reach for many,” APAH Board of Directors member Rich Jordan wrote in a statement. “But we are excited that this project, the first collaboration of its kind, will welcome more veterans home to our community.”

The building will include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all at varying levels of affordability. Most will be designed to be affordable to people making 60 percent or 80 percent of the area median income — that works out to a yearly annual salary of $49,260 and $65,680, respectively.

However, some will be set aside for people making 30 percent of the area median income, a level of affordability that projects around Arlington only rarely achieve. Someone would have to make around $30,000 a year to qualify for the homes.

“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.

The project will also include an underground parking garage for residents, with a total of 96 spaces. Of those, 20 would be set aside to serve the Legion post specifically.

That represents a smaller number of parking spaces that the county’s zoning laws would typically allow at a development of this size. But county officials opted to sign off on the plans anyway, reasoning that many people living at the building will likely rely on the area’s Metro station and bevy of available bus stops to get around.

Even still, parking was a key concern for some neighbors. Some local leaders worry that the building’s larger apartments will attract families, who will bring cars and take up street parking in the neighborhoods adjoining the development.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association and Lyon Village Citizens’ Association both floated the idea of tweaking zoned parking limits in the area — the streets surrounding the development, like N. Kansas Street and 12th Road N., are currently off-limits to people without permits from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Some neighbors proposed a 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. limit instead, but county officials weren’t inclined to grant that request.

In a staff report, the county noted that it’s still in the middle of a lengthy review of the residential parking permit program, with a moratorium on most changes to parking zones while that review moves forward.

That’s now set to wrap up sometime early next year, and county staff told the Planning Commission that they’re hesitant to make any zoned parking changes in the area until then — the County Board did, however, roll back some contentious restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods earlier this year.

“In the future, if parking increases along 12th Road N. by non-Zone 6 permit holders, the hours of the RPP restriction could be evaluated based on the program’s guidelines at that time,” staff wrote in the report.

APAH also plans to construct a new section of N. Kansas Street running north-to-south between 13th Street N. and Washington Blvd, a move that staff hope will break up the area’s “superblock” feel. The new road will include some dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists, and the developer is also planning to widen Washington Blvd near the project.

Eventually, the county also hopes to see 12th Road N. extended to provide an “east-west” connection across the property as well, though that will likely be finished only once the adjacent YMCA redevelops that property to allow for a new recreational facility and some new apartments on the site. A developer is also hoping to add 255 new apartments near the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road in the coming years.

APAH expects to fund the bulk of the $78.4 million project with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit cash, though the nonprofit will also work to raise $3 million in private financing.

The Board also approved a $5.79 million loan for the project Saturday from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, a key tool designed to spur affordable development in Arlington. APAH expects to ask for another $5.375 million loan from the fund next year.

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Plans to redevelop the American Legion post in Virginia Square into a seven-story affordable housing complex are inching forward.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has drawn up a preliminary proposal for the property at 3445 Washington Blvd, advancing plans to purchase the site and someday build 161 multifamily homes there. APAH would also include about 8,000-square-feet on the bottom floor of the building to let American Legion Post 139 stay on the property, which it’s called home for decades.

The proposal, which was submitted to the county last month according to the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, also calls for an underground parking garage at the site, and a new alley to access the building off Washington Blvd.

County planners started preparing in earnest for big changes in the area starting last year, approving a handful of zoning changes to clear the way for changes at the properties along Washington Blvd.

The adjacent YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is planning to build a new, 100,000-square-foot facility on its property at 3422 13th Street N., while another developer hopes to build a six-story apartment building at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association plans to discuss the American Legion proposal in more detail at its monthly meeting tonight, at 900 N. Taylor Street starting at 7 p.m.

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Sen. Tim Kaine's gift to the American Legion Post 139 (via Tim Kaine's Facebook)

An American flag that once flew over the U.S. Capitol will replace a missing flag at the American Legion post in Virginia Square.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) gifted the post at 3445 Washington Blvd with the flag after reading that its previous flag was missing and possibly stolen, as first reported by ARLnow.com.

“While on the road along Route 58 today, I read that the U.S. flag at American Legion Post 139 in Arlington had gone missing,” Kaine said on Facebook. “I asked my staff to see if we could help. I hope they enjoy this new flag which was flown over the U.S. Capitol!”

The flag was obtained through Congress’ Capitol flag program, said Joe LaPaille, Kaine’s deputy press secretary.

“After reading story, he wanted to see if there was something he could do,” LaPaille said.

The flag will be raised tomorrow with an accompanying ceremony, said Sharon Walker, the club manager at the American Legion.

“It was so generous of his office,” she said.

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An American flag that was flying outside of American Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square was apparently stolen earlier this morning.

Sharon Walker, the club manager at the post at 3445 Washington Blvd, said she noticed the flag was gone when she went to check on a mural currently being painted on the side of the building. The POW flag, which flies below the American flag, was lying on the ground and the rope that held the American flag was torn she said.

She first thought that someone had saw it on the ground and picked it up, but that didn’t quite add up, she said.

“If someone had picked it up, they’d also pick up the POW flag,” Walker said.

She asked neighbors if they saw a person take the flag, but so far no one has seen anything, she said. This is the first time in her 31 years at Post 139 that someone has stolen the flag.

A mural of an American flag is currently being painted on the side of the building, and artist Scott LoBaido said there is something ironic about the situation — that the flag was stolen while he was painting the huge mural.

“It just broke my heart,” he said. “It just broke my spirit.”

LoBaido is currently on a mission to paint an American flag on a VFW or American Legion post in every state. The Arlington American Legion is the last stop on his 50-state tour and this is the first time someone stole a flag while he was painting a mural.

“It’s the last one I’m doing. It’s Arlington, Virginia. It’s the Arlington National Cemetery,” he said. “That’s what it is all about.”

LoBaido filed a police report online, but he hasn’t heard back from the Arlington County Police Department. He said he hopes one of the buildings nearby has camera footage of the person stealing the flag. He checked in with the building across the street, but it did not have cameras.

“I consider it a hate crime,” he said. “It’s vandalism. It’s against the law.”

Desecrating the flag from an American Legion post doesn’t make a political statement, he said, it only hurts the service members who fight for it.

“You don’t desecrate the flag because you’re hurting the men and women who gave you the right to protest,” he said.

He urges anyone who saw something to call police. If the thief is caught, LoBaido says he knows the perfect punishment: the person should spend a week doing community service at a local VA Hospital to see the type of sacrifices military personnel make for the flag.

“The irony is here we are at Arlington. The Arlington National Cemetery is down the street,” he said.

A flag will “absolutely” fly tomorrow at the American Legion, Walker said, but she was not sure how much it would cost to replace it.

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American Legion Mural DesignAmerican Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square is about to get a patriotic makeover.

Artist Scott LoBaido has chosen the post at 3445 Washington Blvd for the next mural on his Fifty State Tour, in which he aims to paint a flag mural on either a VFW or American Legion building in all fifty states.

LoBaido has been painting renditions of the stars and stripes for some time. According to the artist’s website, in 2006 he completed a similar mural-painting tour in which he drove across the United States and painted a flag on one rooftop in each state, so that they could be seen from airplanes by departing and returning soldiers.

LoBaido has received national attention for his art, including being named ABC News’ Person of the Week for his 2006 tour.

Post 139 Commander Bob Romano said that when he received the pitch for the flag mural last Thursday, he jumped at the chance.

“It was just too good to pass up,” said Romano.

Although the post has had to spend some money to rent a lift for the artist, the mural itself comes free of charge. LoBaido is scheduled to start work on Sunday, Aug. 16 and finish on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

According to Romano, a dedication ceremony is being planned for Thursday, Aug. 20 at noon. Romano said it will be primarily an American Legion event, and hopes that some Legion Riders will make an appearance.

“I think this is a good thing for the post,” said Romano. “When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘This has to happen.'”

Photo courtesy Bob Romano

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Leslie Fender and Angel have traveled almost 1,500 miles over three years to get to Arlington, and they’re not stopping now.

Fender is a Vietnam War veteran and Angel is his horse. Right now, and through the weekend, Fender and Angel will be camped out at American Legion Post 139 at 3445 Washington Blvd in Virginia Square. Fender and Angel started their journey from his hometown of Stephenville, Texas, three years ago, raising awareness for stroke prevention and research.

Fender is tall, wears a cowboy hat and his American Legion nametag, speaks in a Texas twang and says he started his ride to benefit the National Stroke Association and American Stroke Foundation, which helped pay for his own stroke surgery and recovery in 2004.

This morning, an Arlington resident called 911 after seeing Angel grazing in front of Post 139 and Fender relaxing in his tent on the front lawn. Arlington County Police Department Dustin Sternbeck said the man from the 17,000-person “Cowboy Capital of the World” is doing nothing illegal.

“The horse is not being housed here, so therefore it’s just a mode of transportation,” he said. “When the horse is in the road, cars need to yield to it.”

Fender is staying the weekend to visit the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial in Rosslyn and the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., he said. And what if some new neighbors want to come see Angel?

“They can come and see her, definitely,” Fender said. “But they should donate to the stroke foundation if they do.”

After this weekend, Fender said he and Angel will mosey north, visiting Veterans Affairs hospitals, American Legion posts and V.F.W. posts, raising awareness for stroke research, camping out and stopping traffic as they go.

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