Arlington, VA

(Updated 02/08/21) The Arlington County Board has scheduled a public hearing on proposed changes to the Residential Parking Program for its regular meeting on Feb. 20.

But Board members are open to pushing off the hearing further to engage more people and give residents more time to digest the changes.

Board member Christian Dorsey said the Board is merely advertising a public hearing and the proposed changes to the program are not drastic.

“This is an evolutionary update, not a revolutionary one,” he said. “While it’s a complicated program, the degree of change is not as difficult.”

A delayed public hearing may mean implementation is deferred to the 2022-23 fiscal year, especially if the County staff is expected to do more public engagement, said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager.

“Some people will be unhappy no matter how we do this program,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “We are really trying to balance what is fair and what is right and provide flexibility.”

The proposed changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. Among the changes, County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in restricted residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

Staff also recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, and reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

During the meeting, the County Board approved an amendment that would allow residents to buy a third, or even a fourth, parking pass at a higher cost.

The added flexibility came after the board heard from families who have suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, along with renters, homeowners who rent out rooms and homeowners who said the program would force them to enlarge their driveways.

Another concern expressed by some: whether the county can effectively enforce the modified parking restrictions, with hourly parkers added to the mix.

With the public hearing pushed from January to February, the Board members asked residents to think about the program over the next two months.

“This is a very complex program,” Garvey said. “For anybody who is just now looking at it, they need more time to digest even what we’re doing right now.”

So far, the public engagement process has mostly drawn out homeowners who currently benefit from the parking program, but not the apartment- and condo-dwellers who are generally excluded from it, a few Board members pointed out.

“Aurora Highlands has been well-represented in the public comments,” Board member Matt de Ferranti said. “The people who might benefit from this in terms of apartment buildings aren’t here.”

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Six years after redevelopment discussions began, a plan to upgrade a block of aging brick buildings in Courthouse is winding through Arlington County’s levels of review.

“The Courthouse Landmark Block (2050 Wilson Blvd) is currently under review via our site plan review process,” said Jessica Margarit, the communications manager for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, in an email.

An online engagement opportunity focused on transportation, sustainability, community benefits and construction opened Monday and will run through Sunday. County Board consideration of the project is expected in the next few months.

“The Planning Commission and County Board intend to consider this application during Winter 2020-21,” Margarit said.

Greystar Real Estate Partners is proposing a 20-story apartment building with ground-floor retail, rooftop amenities and open space, as well as a below-grade parking structure. The development would replace the one- to three-story brick buildings, including the now-closed Summers Restaurant, just east of the Courthouse Metro station entrance.

The proposal includes keeping, with some changes, the façades of two buildings deemed to be historic.

“Our concept is to embrace the site and its position as one of the highest elevations in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, as well as a prominent building in all directions,” said architect Stephen Smith of Cooper Carry in a September meeting.

The building will have 418 residential units and 160 parking spaces. It will also have 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space with 61 retail parking spaces. The proposal includes prominent ground floor retail spaces with the tower set back a bit from the street, “producing a lighter, more enjoyable pedestrian feel on the sidewalk.”

“It became clear to us when we first approached the site and looked at the sector plan’s recommendations, the site’s very unique and highly visible location in the heart of central Courthouse meant that the site has a lot of design response,” Smith said.

Greystar will fashion a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street between the Courthouse Metro station and the development

“This is intended to become a vibrant and broad pedestrian walkway lined with trees and active retail uses and distinctive lighting,” said John Beinert, the director of development for Greystar.

The pathway comes with two challenges, accommodating a utility vault and a four-foot elevation change. To overcome these, the promenade will have a slight bend to move around the vault, creating “a more dynamic and inviting experience,” and the green space will be terraced to solve the grade-change problem.

Retail space will line the promenade and an elevator lobby will provide access to a garage below-ground.

“Making this new space active and engaging is our highest priority,” Beinert said.

Other proposed community benefits include additional improvements to the streetscape, LEED certification, and contributions to the county’s public art and affordable housing funds.

Two existing buildings will be preserved and their façades redone with historically accurate design and materials.

These are the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Boulevard), constructed in 1946, and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.), constructed in 1948. They are identified as “important” on the County’s Historic Resources Inventory.

Greystar, meanwhile, has picked up another project in Courthouse. The company is now planning to redevelop the former Wendy’s site, across from the Landmark block, into another residential tower, according to the Washington Business Journal.

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(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

These are two of the changes to the program staff are proposing that the County Board adopt. The changes will be reviewed and refined before the Board votes early next year, and come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted.

“We are attempting to make compromises between disparate viewpoints and disagreements about how the program should be structured,” said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager, who fielded questions from residents during a virtual Q&A session last week.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

The benefit of paid parking over free, time-limited parking in residential zones — as is in place in parts of D.C. — is that “we make the parking easier to enforce for the police and make it more likely to be enforced regularly,” Crim said.

Permit and pass fees would be raised to pay for 100% of the program’s costs, whereas 40% of the costs to administer and enforce the RPP program currently come from general tax funding. Discounts on permits and passes would be available to low-income households . 

Staff recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, as well as reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Staff propose to remove the “out-of-area” test from the permit process, which requires would-be RPP zones to have a preponderance of commuters, shoppers or other people from outside the neighborhood taking up street parking spaces. Crim said that change is a way of “shifting the program into a more general parking management program.” 

Currently, the county needs to see that a block has 75% of spaces are occupied, of which at least 25% are occupied by out-of-area vehicles.

The RPP program has sharply divided residents. According to a recently released report, some of these divisions occur along the lines of race and class, as permitted residential street parking is disproportionately available to white, affluent Arlingtonians.

Residents of most apartment buildings are currently not eligible to receive RPP permits. More will be eligible under the proposed changes, but many will still be shut out if their building was approved by the County Board via a site plan or certain types of use permits.

Residents can see if their address currently qualifies for a permit through this link.

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Arlington’s top prosecutor is seeking more community feedback.

Residents of Arlington and Falls Church are being invited to apply to join the Community Advisory Board for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

The board, consisting of seven to 10 members, will meet quarterly to provide input on criminal justice reform and public safety and serve as a liaison between the Commonwealth’s Attorney office and the public.

Board members will also provide their perspectives on how new policies could impact people with drug addictions and who experience homelessness or poverty and will be charged with informing the community of the office’s goals and objectives.

“The idea is to have a diverse representative board so that I can hear what’s going on in specific neighborhoods, what people are concerned about, what are the community’s ideas for what they’d like to see done,” said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

She said she designed the board to give advice and “drill down into the issues.”

These include making the justice system more restorative rather than punitive, she said. Her office is working with the Restorative Arlington initiative to reduce punitive measures taken in schools, such as suspensions and expulsions, and the legal system, such as seeking cash bail.

Examples of restorative justice for those who commit crimes include diverting young people and people with substance-abuse or mental-health struggles from jails to government services and treatment programs, she said. For victims of crimes, she said the office has changed how it assigns prosecutors to cases so that when cases are delayed, they are no longer passed from prosecutor to prosecutor.

The board-office relationship is a two-way street, Dehghani-Tafti said. The office also has to be able to explain its actions and reasons in an environment that is not “heated and adversarial,” she said.

Dehghani-Tafti began talking about a board in January 2019 when she launched her campaign for the office, but the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent closures delayed the opening of the application from this spring to the fall.

With courts at lower capacity due to COVID-19, the office has also kept busy working with the rest of the criminal justice system to reduce the inmate population and make the county jail safer, she said.

Dehghani-Tafti said she hopes the community board’s first meeting takes place in December, although she may extend the timeline if the first round of applicants is not representative enough of the communities she serves.

“It’s a lot like hiring: You can’t just list a job posting and not push it out to people,” she said. “It takes some work.”

Those who do not join the board may also have another avenue for input. Dehghani-Tafti said she plans to host regular town hall meetings as COVID-19 conditions improve and regulations on gatherings loosen.

The application must be completed and submitted by Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 9 a.m. Further questions about the Community Advisory Board can be sent to [email protected].

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After months of planning, Arlington County is preparing to enter the first phase of its “Missing Middle Housing Study.”

The study will look at whether the county should diversify its housing stock by introducing more housing types that have been typically prohibited from many neighborhoods.

Set to kick off on Oct. 29 after an Oct. 13 orientation meeting for community partners, the study’s first phase will focus primarily on community engagement, as county staff solicit ideas about what housing types to study and key priorities and issues to consider going forward.

The county is seeking “enlisting a network of community partners to facilitate broader study participation through the use of their own communication networks,” according to the study’s website.

“The most important consideration for community engagement is equity and ensuring that access and opportunities to participate in this process are equitable and inclusive,” Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development planner Kellie Brown said. “We’re recommending a very distributed community engagement process to make sure that we’re not leaving anyone out.”

As laid out in a presentation to the Arlington County Board on Sept. 23, the Missing Middle Housing Study has been divided into three phases, concluding in the summer of 2022.

With the first phase expected to run until spring 2021, the second phase would start next summer with more in-depth analyses of the different possible housing types. The third phase will turn those recommendations into specific amendments to its zoning ordinance or comprehensive plan if necessary.

Since it was first presented to the public in January, the study’s scope has been slightly modified based on feedback the county got from various commissions and civic associations, as well as an online survey that drew 494 responses, according to Brown.

In addition to emphasizing the need to align Arlington’s land use and zoning policies with its diversity and inclusivity goals, the new scope highlights potential benefits of middle housing, such as improved walkability of neighborhoods and diversity of housing options, and clarifies that the study will be countywide, not just focused on neighborhoods dominated by single-family detached homes.

The refined scope also states that, while the study’s goals are to increase the supply and choice of housing available in Arlington, affordability can be considered as a potential community priority.

The study scope was developed based on community input, but some Arlington residents remain skeptical of the county’s goals, fearing that introducing duplexes, townhouses, and other forms of middle housing to new neighborhoods will further accelerate development in the county without alleviating affordability concerns.

The advocacy group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future argues that the county should not ask residents to weigh in on missing middle housing until it also conducts studies of potential impacts on schools, the environment, flooding, the county budget, and other factors.

“I do think that Housing Arlington has not made the case that we really need to study introducing these housing types,” ASF founder Peter Rousselot said. “We think that it’s going to be good for developers to be able to develop and sell these houses, but without doing these environmental and fiscal impacts, it just doesn’t make sense for us.”

Arlington officials say that changing zoning policies to accommodate housing types other than single-family detached homes and high-rise apartment buildings — like duplexes and townhouses — is necessary to add to the county’s housing supply and manage the impact of anticipated regional growth. It could make up for long-standing policies, such as a rowhouse ban enacted in 1938, that contributed to segregating neighborhoods by race and class.

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Planning is underway for a temporary dog park in Rosslyn that could eventually become permanent.

The dog park will be built in an underutilized grassy area on the west end of Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway). The current plans call for it to be divided into a 8,000 square foot section for large dogs and a 2,900 square foot section for small dogs.

A design process for the dog park is now underway and expected to wrap up by the end of the year. A construction timeline has not yet been revealed.

“The facility is proposed to include separate areas to accommodate both large and small dogs, fencing with screening in some areas, upgraded lighting, a water source for dogs, grass surfacing, double entry gates, maintenance gates, repurposed and ADA accessible benches, dog waste receptacles, a message board, and standard County signage,” the project website says.” Gateway Park is currently lighted, and the upgraded lights associated with this project will allow visitors to use the dog park until the lights turn off at 9 p.m.”

The county is seeking feedback on the draft design for the park.

If approved, the temporary park’s approximately $43,700 cost is to be paid by R-DOGS, the private group of Rosslyn area dog owners that has been pushing for a new dog park since 2018. The county parks department will maintain the dog park with help from R-DOGS, which is asking its members to provide feedback on the design.

“Every R-DOGS member is needed to comment… And ask all you friends and neighbors to add their comments,” the group said in a letter to supporters. “This is probably the only opportunity our dogs will have for an off-leash park within Rosslyn and walking distance for their human companions.”

The park could become permanent after the master plan for Gateway Park is reviewed in 2022.

“If approved, this park will be available for community use until a park master plan is developed for Gateway Park and there is funding to construct the improvements,” the county said. “The temporary dog park will also be reviewed annually to ensure it is operating safely and in accordance with the County’s policies regarding temporary park uses and facilities.”

A recent presentation noted that the dog park is to be built in an area not typically used by annual public events that use Gateway Park, like the Rosslyn Jazz Festival.

“If the temporary dog park is built on a portion of the west end of Gateway Park, the east side will still be usable for annual events,” the county said.

A separate proposal for a new dog park in Pentagon City is also making some progress. In June it was reported that Amazon was pledging $50,000 for the temporary amenities in the northern end of Virginia Highlands Park, near Pentagon Row and Pentagon City mall.

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As the nation continues to face a reckoning about race and police shootings, Arlington’s new Police Practices Group is seeking feedback on how local law enforcement is performing.

The work group has rolled out a community feedback form that allows Arlington residents to weigh in on topics like use of force, police training, body cameras, mental health, traffic enforcement and a potential civilian review board.

“The PPG is seeking insights and comments from community members to inform the their work plan moving forward,” said a county spokeswoman.

The Police Practices Group is tackling four broad policy considerations:

  • Police civilian review board – what type and approach?
  • The role of the police department in providing mental health services;
  • The role for the police department in traffic enforcement; and
  • The opportunity for alternative dispute resolution, including restorative justice & mediation.

The group started meeting last month and is set to wrap up its work by Dec. 30. It will present its recommendations to County Manager Mark Schwartz, who in turn will make recommendations for potential changes to the County Board.

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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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Morning Notes

New Leader of Leadership Center — “Leadership Center for Excellence (LCE) announces the addition of Karen Coltrane as its President & CEO… With 27 years of nonprofit work in her professional career, Coltrane most recently served as the President & CEO of EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia, South Carolina.” [Leadership Center for Excellence, The State]

VRE to Review Community Feedback on Station — “Virginia Railway Express officials will spend coming weeks sifting through public comments on plans to upgrade station facilities at Crystal City. July 1 was the deadline for comments on the proposal to relocate and expand VRE facilities in Crystal City, which is the destination of about 18 percent of riders coming in from the west and south.” [InsideNova]

Another Hot Day — Heat index values today are expected to again climb above 100 degrees, though a cold front should cool things off on Friday. There is a slight chance of rain and storms today. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) wants to hear your thoughts about the future of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

The process, called the Future Cities Project, will engage members of the public on the area’s future. Simultaneously, the Crystal City BID will hold various public meetings throughout the summer at both the Pentagon City and Crystal City Metro stations, residential and office lobbies, shopping spaces and more. The schedule has yet to come out, but the BID will provide update in the coming weeks.

Throughout the process, the project will “consider public space and placemaking efforts, the strategic goals of the organization, and elevating a new identity for the area — all with the goal of transforming these interrelated areas into a lively, walkable urban center,” according to a press release.

The public engagement effort comes as the BID is weighing plans to expand its boundaries to include Pentagon City and the Arlington portion of Potomac Yard, which — should it happen — would necessitate a new name to reference the combined neighborhoods.The effort also comes as Amazon considers Crystal City as a possible destination for its second headquarters.

Photo courtesy Crystal City BID

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