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Susan English speaks in favor of Missing Middle housing during the September County Board meeting (via Arlington County)

In a crowded Bozman Government Center on Saturday morning, one person urged the Arlington County Board to move forward with Missing Middle housing while another critiqued the push for county-wide zoning changes.

But Board members had only to read the room — and the signs people brought — to see a sea of residents who were as divided into pro- and anti-Missing Middle camps that day as they were during a raucous meeting this June.

“We owe it to our larger community to let more people live here through smaller multiplexes, yes, but especially through denser affordable apartment housing. Doing otherwise is environmentally unsustainable — and it’s exclusionary,” said Susan English. “I’ve lived in a pleasant tear-down in a nice neighborhood for 40 years, but I hope when I leave my house will be replaced with at least a duplex.”

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, the only candidate opposed to the Missing Middle upzoning proposal, told those attending and watching the meeting that she would “debunk some myths about it.”

Reciting excerpts of a speech she has presented during the Arlington County Civic Federation and Chamber of Commerce candidate fora, Clement argued that Missing Middle will not add to the county’s stock of 3-bedroom, and will reduce Arlington’s tree canopy, and will not increase home-buying opportunities for people of color — though the latter is an assertion with which the local NAACP disagrees.

Clement suggested alternatives such as office-to-residential conversions.

Board Chair Katie Cristol broke through the whooping and hollering that followed Clement’s comments, saying, “Alright, thank you ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to continue hearing from neighbors.”

But she later thanked attendees for respecting the rules for addressing the Board, which include restrictions on how many people can speak on a given matter not otherwise on the Board’s agenda.

“I also just want to give a sincere thanks to all who’ve come who respected our one-speaker-per-topic rule, helping us hear from more neighbors,” she said.

During the June meeting, some attendees shouted at Cristol when she cut off another speaker for violating the rule. The Board allows one speaker per topic, with opposing views on the same topic considered two separate topics.

Booing, which followed a speech this summer by a member of pro-density group YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, was also absent this time around. But there was plenty of applause — for every speaker, despite the range of topics, from the taxes nonprofits pay to climate change.

Resident Dima Hakura, who has spoken at length in meetings and with the Board about the Courthouse West General Land Use Plan, took the podium to urge the County Board to listen to its constituents, not “patronize us.” The room erupted in cheers after she finished her speech.

We need a leadership that builds consensus among us and unites us. A leadership that not only respects our opinions and values them, but also taps into them. One that considers our thoughts and makes constructive use of them to evolve the solutions possible… Interestingly, Arlington was always known for that, but somehow, somewhere we lost our way and we need to find it again.

… When I told people I was coming to speak before you today, the reaction was: “Why bother?” or, “It’s not going to make an iota of difference,” or, “Their mind is already made up. They have an agenda they want to push.” Regardless, I am hoping differently.

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti at Arlington Democrats election watch party in November 2019, when she was elected to office (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The Arlington police union is pushing back on accusations that officers mishandled the search of a suspect who is now linked to a double murder.

In a rare public rebuke of Arlington’s top prosecutor, the Arlington Coalition of Police this afternoon sent out a press release accusing Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti of “ineptitude” and “deflection of blame.”

The barbs stem from a 2020 case against Francis Rose, who is currently in jail in Alexandria after a series of break-ins at an apartment complex there reportedly led to two construction workers, a stepfather and stepson described as “innocent bystanders,” each being fatally shot in the head.

As ARLnow exclusively reported last week, Rose was released from Arlington County jail this past February after the 2020 case against him fell apart when a judge ruled that evidence was obtained during an unconstitutional search of his bag. With the gun and the drugs allegedly found in Rose’s bag disallowed as evidence, prosecutors dropped the charges against him, including possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Rose spent nearly two years in jail awaiting trial before being freed when charges were dropped.

“As court records show, our office attempted to proceed on those charges, but during a suppression hearing, a judge ruled that the police had performed an unconstitutional search and, as the law required, suppressed the evidence in the case,” Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow last week. “Obviously, we could not prove a case without the evidence, and therefore dismissed it.”

“My heart breaks for the families and loved ones of the people killed this weekend,” she added.

Dehghani-Tafti subsequently said on Twitter, in response to criticism from the Virginia Republican party, that she’s “not casting blame on anyone” for the case falling apart.

The Arlington Coalition of Police, however, suggests that Dehghani-Tafti should be taking more of the blame, accusing her of “attempting to throw police officers under the bus for a lost [evidence] suppression hearing.”

The full statement from the union is below.

Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti’s recent statements regarding the suppression hearing for Francis Rose, intentionally worded to cast fault on the officers involved, were based on self-preservation and deflection of blame.  Unlike the Commonwealth Attorney, the Arlington Coalition of Police ordered the transcript of the hearing to have a full understanding of what happened before making public comment.

Prior to the hearing, the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney handling the case believed there would be “no problem” regarding the suppression and believed the officer’s actions were lawful.  At the time of the suppression hearing, Mr. Rose had spent approximately two years in jail awaiting trial. The Commonwealth Attorney opposed giving him bond on multiple occasions.  If the Commonwealth Attorney believed the actions of the officers were unlawful, opposing bond and holding Mr. Rose for two years would be unethical.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) You might soon be able to buy a Beretta where you could previously sip a bumble.

Gun store Nova Armory appears poised to open in the former This Is Fine Coffee and Kino Coffee space at 2607 Wilson Blvd. Boxes outside the storefront are addressed to Nova Armory and its parent company, while the store has the address listed on a “contact us” page on its website.

Nova Armory has an existing location on N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park that opened amid considerable local controversy in 2016. A representative of the store told ARLnow via email Monday afternoon that the Pershing Drive location will close.

“We [will] only have one location at Wilson Blvd,” the store rep said. “The old location is being shut down.”

Already, early word of the potential opening is causing its own controversy. One of several tips sent to ARLnow called it an “unacceptable, reckless addition to the neighborhood.”

Despite drawing the ire of some neighbors and experiencing several burglaries, the local gun store is seemingly popular with customers given its online reviews while reporting growing business a couple of years after opening. Like many gun stores, Nova Armory also experienced a boom in business at the outset of the pandemic.

Kino Coffee, which was noted for serving a unique (at least for the United States) orange juice-espresso blend called bumble coffee, closed late last year, citing Covid-related business challenges.

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) The Arlington County Board is eyeing December for a vote on residential zoning changes suggested by the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study.

But changes to the study’s draft framework — for allowing multi-family homes with up to 8 units on properties currently zoned only for single family homes — seem likely.

The Board discussed the often-contentious community feedback to the proposal and possible modifications at a work session Tuesday afternoon. As they talked with county staff and amongst themselves, residents — many with signs supporting or opposing the proposal — packed the Board room and watched with interest.

Slide from staff presentation at Missing Middle Housing Study work session

The feedback, county staff said in a presentation, has been mixed but more negative than positive. Of note is the split between feedback from residents of single-family detached homes and those who live in apartments, condos and townhouses.

Asked whether any housing types, from townhouses to 8-plexes, should be removed from the proposal, 78% of single-family detached home residents who provided feedback said yes, indicating opposition to the current proposal, while 70% of those who live in other housing types said no, indicating support.

Slide from staff presentation at Missing Middle Housing Study work session

Arlington has about 29,000 single-family detached homes and 79,000 townhouses, apartments, condos and other housing types, the staff presentation said.

Though critics of the missing middle proposal have been calling for more public outreach and feedback, county staff argued that they conducted extensive outreach, including 150,000 postcards, nine pop-up events, six walking tours and an online feedback form.

Slide from staff presentation at Missing Middle Housing Study work session

The online feedback form received 2.5 times as many negative comments as positive comments, the staff presentation said, though feedback at the pop-up events and through emails and letters was more positive, with roughly 2.5 times more positive comments as negative via email.

County staff noted that the vast majority of those responding to the feedback form said they own a single-family detached home and reported “white” or “prefer not to respond” under “race and ethnicity.”

Slide from staff presentation at Missing Middle Housing Study work session

Given the overrepresentation of white homeowners in providing online feedback, staff said they used the county’s “equity lens” and decided to hold pop-up events in areas with renters and minority residents, so as to gather more feedback from those groups.

All told, staff told the Board that it has received “strong” interest and extensive input from the community about the proposal.

“The feedback was fast and furious and ongoing,” said Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development Communications Manager Erika Moore.

Slide from staff presentation at Missing Middle Housing Study work session

Following the staff presentation, the Board discussed aspects of the proposal and posed questions to staff.

Board members Libby Garvey and Matt de Ferranti — who is up for reelection in November — both expressed concern about putting eight housing units in the footprint of a single-family home in an otherwise single-family home neighborhood.

“The eight units makes me kind of uncomfortable,” Garvey said

“I share the concern with the 8-units for this specific reason, I think it will result in more small half bedroom units,” de Ferranti agreed, joining other Board members in expressing support for “missing middle” homes with more bedrooms, which could house a family.

There was also discussion of whether missing middle zoning should be limited to transit corridors, which received pushback from some members.

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Morning Notes

Lightning over Cherrydale last night (photo courtesy Kennedy Combs)

‘Missing Middle’ Fight Heats Up — “The topic of housing wasn’t even on the agenda for lawmakers in Arlington County, but residents streamed into one recent meeting with a sea of posters to express their dueling views on the issue… That raucous meeting offered a taste of what promises to be one of the most contentious political battles in recent memory in Arlington: a proposal to legalize ‘missing middle’ housing — from townhouses to duplexes to eight-unit buildings — that many are treating as an existential debate over the future of this affluent, deep-blue Northern Virginia suburb.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Has Priciest Local Rent — New data shows that the average rent for one-bedroom apartments in Arlington is the highest in the region, after rising 5% month over month to $2,310/mo. [Zumper]

Video: A Ride in the RainUpdated at 9:20 a.m. — “Was just past the White House on Constitution Ave heading… towards Arlington when I got pummeled by rain.” [YouTube]

Videos: Stormy Evening — Videos posted to Twitter show the strong wind and the spectacular lightning from yesterday evening’s storm. [Twitter, Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:35 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Several items before the County Board on Saturday would tee up an Arlington Transit bus facility construction in Green Valley — to the chagrin of two communities.

The Board will consider approving the use of the new bus facility for commercial parking, temporarily relocating about 30 ART buses to a Virginia Square site during construction, revising a lease to accommodate the temporary storage, and making contract amendments.

Construction on the project off Shirlington Road, which is budgeted at $97 million, is set to start in late spring, per a board report.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association is concerned with the county’s plans to use the approximately 6-acre “Buck site” along N. Quincy Street for temporary bus storage. The association claims the property isn’t zoned as a bus dispatch and storage site, and it would be disruptive to the neighborhood.

County officials said in December that property is the only available and affordable site zoned for vehicle storage. Ahead of construction, 29 buses will go to the N. Quincy Street site, while 12 will move to a bus site on S. Eads Street, which opened in 2017 near Crystal City.

“Other sites were considered, both County-owned and private facilities, but these did not meet all the suitability criteria needed to maintain service delivery to our transit riders,” county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said in a statement. “If the Board approves the application for the use permit, the County has committed to being a good neighbor to minimize impacts to the largest extent possible and be responsive to concerns that may arise from this temporary use.”

Layout of the county-owned 1425 N. Quincy Street site with the temporary Arlington Transit (ART) bus storage (via Arlington County)

Currently, the county uses the site across from Washington-Liberty High School to park some fire and police vehicles, as well as a portion of the Arlington Public Schools vehicle fleet. An item before the Board this weekend would amend its lease with the School Board to move those vehicles to another part of the site.

The local civic association, however, is opposed to the plan.

“Our neighborhood — like any other in Arlington — should shoulder its fair share of uses that benefit the broader community, even if that sometimes means greater noise, traffic, and pollution,” BVSCA President James Rosen said in a statement. “But placing buses on the Quincy site fails to meet the standard for a good — let alone lawful — use of land the County paid over $30 million to acquire in 2017, of which the County has since written off $5 million.”

Before the county purchased the property, which is zoned for light industrial uses, it was home to family establishments like Jumping Joeys and Dynamic Gymnastics. The county, facing a shortage of land for school and government operations, saw the purchase as a possible school bus facility, which the surrounding community also opposed at the time.

“The noxious effects of the operation of ART buses… will not only put our health and safety at risk, but will compromise the livability of our neighborhood, and put our students and visitors in dangerous situations,” Rosen said.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services previously said the peak times of the high school and bus dispatches aren’t the same so it doesn’t think that student safety will be an issue.

Projected route activity for the temporary bus facility on N. Quincy Street (via Arlington County)

Through 2025, buses will be parked at and dispatched from the N. Quincy Street site on weekdays, with a majority of movement happening between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m., according to the board report. The buses parked on the site would serve six ART bus routes, mostly in north Arlington.

Maintenance and refueling activities would not occur on-site but buses may leave to be maintenanced at other county facilities on weekends.

Green Valley facility

As ART has increased its routes and hours of service over the last decade, and anticipates continuing to increase service over the next 20 years, the operations and maintenance facility in Green Valley is needed, according to a board report.

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The Liberty gas station in Bluemont (photo via Google Maps)

Nearly 200 comments later, a contentious Nextdoor discussion about the propriety of tossing bagged dog poop in business trash cans ended on a hopeful note.

The discussion thread on the social network started when a Bluemont resident posted the following complaint about a “rude confrontation” at the neighborhood’s well-liked Liberty gas station at 5201 Wilson Blvd. It concluded 18 hours later with something rare to behold these days within the online fighting pits: genuine self-reflection and the promise of an apology.

“I want to warn other dog walkers that you might get an earful from the company if you try and dispose of your dog’s waste in their bins,” said the man’s original post. “There’s a public bin within a few meters.”

The comments in response were immediately negative, questioning why he had not just dropped the doggy doo doo in the public waste bin and whether the post was real, which led to the poster doubling down and threatening to boycott the gas station.

Not a hoax. If they don’t want me throwing things away in the trash while I’m not paying for gas. Ok, I got.

It was more the way the employee had interacted with me, as if I’m the only one ever throwing away trash (which is always going to be stinky) in their trash bin. As if I, on this one day in particular, was the reason he’s had to empty out trash every day of his life.

Now I won’t be paying for gas there or using their services again; as any consumer has that right.

More than 150 comments followed in the proceeding 18 hours, mostly upbraiding the poster and defending the employee.

“You’re throwing literal feces, not generic gas station waste, into a private trash can and wrote a page trying to besmirch their business for making a reasonable request on how their property is used, as is their right, and expect to not seem entitled?” wrote a Maywood resident in response. “You hit all the marks for it in your diatribe and then instead of just saying okay no problem with respect you deflected to ‘well it’s not just me’ and pushed your point.”

“If you really respected this gentleman just doing his job, you would have immediately apologized and promised to not do it again. Instead, you chose to initiate a confrontation. And he responded, as would anyone!” wrote a Westover resident. “That doesn’t make him rude. Instead, it only proved your inability to accept responsibility. What would you have done if someone walked up to use the trash can on your porch for any trash, poop or not?”

Amid the pile-on — which eventually came to include Alexandria, D.C. and Fairfax County residents, as Nextdoor seems to expand the geographic radius of users who see local posts when one is receiving high engagement — some remarked on the relative frequency of and passionate response to posts involving dog poop in the platform.

A common Nextdoor discussion, they pointed out, involves disputes over neighbors tossing feces-filled bags in each other’s trash cans.

“One thing I have learned on Nextdoor is that some people have no issue at all with throwing dog poop in a bag in any trash can available, and that some people feel extremely strongly that it should never be done,” observed a Rock Spring resident. “And that the two sides don’t remotely understand how the other could feel that way.”

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Washington-Liberty High School students browse copies of “Beloved” and “Maus” (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) This afternoon, a group of Washington-Liberty High School students are giving their peers more than 100 copies of two politically controversial books.

The books are “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel following a Black family during the Reconstruction era, and “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his father’s life during World War II. Both have explicit content that has some parents and politicians questioning their place in schools.

Controversy around “Beloved” is part of the origin story for a bill passed by the state Senate earlier this month, which would require teachers to label classroom materials that have sexually explicit content. “Maus,” meanwhile, rocketed into the national spotlight after a Tennessee school board voted last month to remove the book from its curriculum due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.

In addition to labeling classroom materials that have sexually explicit content, the new law requires teachers to notify parents if they are going to teach the materials. It gives parents the right to opt their children out of these lessons and request alternative materials.

But some high school students in Arlington and Fairfax counties are calling the law “backdoor censorship” and organized the distribution in response. It began at 3:15 p.m. in Quincy Park, near W-L.

“Great thinkers and proud Virginians like Thomas Jefferson, Maggie Walker, James Madison, George Mason and Oliver Hill — men and women who understood the importance of education and the value of studying difficult and divisive ideas — are rolling over in their graves,” W-L freshman and giveaway organizer Aaron Zevin-Lopez said in a statement.

Zevin-Lopez tells ARLnow he teamed up with George Marshall High School student Matt Savage — who has been facilitating distributions in Northern Virginia schools this month — to host a book giveaway in Arlington.

“Kids at my school understood that the Governor was attempting to limit reading rights within schools, so we thought that handing out the books beforehand could be a great way to spread the message of resistance and making sure the youth understands our past, both good and bad,” Zevin-Lopez said.

The two students are leaders of the Virginia chapter of a Gen-Z political advocacy group called Voters of Tomorrow, which is providing financial support for the giveaway.

“When the government establishes laws to label literature in terms of a single factor like ‘sexually explicit’, regardless of that factor’s significance to the larger world of literary merit or meaning, it edges closer to censorship,” said Savage, president of Voters of Tomorrow Virginia. “It means we are labeling content for the sole purpose of suppressing it.”

The students say requiring teachers to define their lessons in terms of how much “sexually explicit” content it contains will dissuade them from using anything that may be considered “objectionable.” They add that the law will force teachers to draft two entire lesson plans for one class on the objection of just one parent.

The bill is similar to one passed in 2016, which became known as the “Beloved” bill because it was inspired by a mother’s attempt to have the novel removed from her son’s English class. It was vetoed, however, by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — and his veto narrowly avoided being overturned by the House of Delegates.

The question of parental involvement in education became a central theme of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign after McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Passing the law was a campaign promise of and priority for Youngkin when he assumed office. The Republican governor unsuccessfully tried to pass other laws, including one rooting out curriculum based on critical race theory, and created a tip line for people to report teaching strategies they object to.

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A group of Arlington County first responders and staff from other departments are petitioning the county to reverse course on its vaccine mandate.

Those who elect not to get the vaccine risk losing their jobs come February, per the county’s updated vaccine policy, shared with ARLnow.

Arlington County mandated vaccines for all government employees back in August, requiring those who were unvaccinated to submit to weekly testing. Since then, the county added a deadline to its policy: unvaccinated employees have until Feb. 1, 2022 to get the vaccine or get a medical or religious exemption. Those without a vaccine or an exemption on Feb. 1 will be placed on leave, and if they obtain neither before Feb. 28, 2022, they lose their jobs.

Some 278 of 3,137 permanent county employees are unvaccinated, including an unknown number of religious or medical exemptions, according to Public Health Division spokesman Ryan Hudson.

Those requesting the county to change its policy are asking for “more reciprocal ideas” for ensuring employee health and safety. The petition, started by firefighter Sterling Montague, has garnered nearly 300 signatures, from employees and their friends and family.

“More people came out in the last week than I ever knew of who are in support of the guys who don’t want to get the vaccine,” Montague tells ARLnow, adding that the coalition represents different demographics and opinions, including those who are vaccinated but oppose mandates.

“We aren’t uniformly anything,” he said. “We are anti-mandate for lots of reasons… [and] we have a diverse group that includes African-Americans and Hispanics.”

The petition says the mandate disproportionately harms people of color and it’s unclear what recourse folks have if those forced to take the vaccine suffer side effects. Objections to the shot, meanwhile, include that it was designed for a previous version of the virus and only protects for a short period of time and wanes, requiring an unknown number of additional boosters.

The county maintains that vaccines are safe and the best protection against COVID-19 — something echoed by the vast majority of doctors and public health professionals.

Arlington Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said mandates work, linking rising vaccination rates among those older than 18 to various mandates during a County Board recessed meeting on Tuesday.

Rather than terminate up to 10% of employees — while the county faces ongoing and predicted workforce shortages among first responders and in other county departments — the petition suggests affordable, at-work tests for unvaccinated folks and those who report to work with symptoms while counting previous COVID-19 cases towards immunization.

Testing isn’t cheap. For the last three weeks, that testing has cost the county about $7,300 per week, but it’s 100% reimbursed under the White House’s COVID-19 Disaster Declaration, Hudson said.

Those opposed to the mandate say these temporary solutions are important as the pandemic and the vaccines evolve and because they’re worried few who applied will be granted religious and medical exemptions.

“It’s like they’re trying to fire us before things change,” Montague said. “If, in a year, this is the same, you’d have a year more credibility to fire us, but it doesn’t make sense to fire us as soon as possible.” Read More

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(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) Yorktown High School’s homecoming football game Friday night was marred by “unacceptable behavior” by a group of students during halftime.

That’s according to principal, Kevin Clark, who sent a scathing email to Yorktown families on Saturday, ahead of the school’s homecoming dance.

“Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote. “This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown.”

Clark promised to “fully investigate and address reported behavior from the football game.”

Several parents, citing a social post describing what happened, told ARLnow that the harassment was aimed at girls in the band and the color guard. That could not be immediately verified. No classes are being held today due to the federal holiday.

The Arlington County Police Department reported today that a girl was touched inappropriately during the game.

SEXUAL BATTERY (late), 2021-10090195, 5200 block of Yorktown Boulevard. At approximately 4:57 p.m. on October 9, officers were dispatched to the police station for the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 9:00 p.m. on October 8, the juvenile victim was walking in the area during the Homecoming Football Game when the unknown suspect inappropriately touched her. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

Last year Clark addressed another controversy with families, after a banner created for graduation was seen by some as racist.

The full letter about the behavior at the homecoming game is below.

Dear Yorktown Community,

I’m writing to follow up on last night’s Homecoming Football Game and provide an update about tonight’s Homecoming Dance. While the vast majority of our students enjoyed an exciting and positive experience, we are extremely disappointed and concerned about the unacceptable behavior of several students during the halftime performance and second half of the game.

Students reported that during the halftime performance and thereafter, several students harassed fellow Yorktown students using inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student. This created an unsafe environment and does not reflect the values of our students and staff at Yorktown, where we teach Respect for Others, Community and Self (ROCS) at all times.

We harshly condemn the actions of these students and will not tolerate such behavior at any Yorktown or APS activity. We are taking these reports seriously and are investigating them thoroughly. Students found to be responsible for this behavior will be held accountable. Additionally, we will take immediate measures (listed below) so that all students have a safe environment to learn and participate in school activities. This type of behavior impacts our entire school community. We need your support to address this moving forward and encourage you to speak to your child about the importance of positive and safe interactions.

If you have any information about what occurred last night or if you have any questions, please reach out to me directly […]

Next Steps Identified

  • Limiting student ticket sales to future athletic events to reflect facility limitations and capacities
  • On-field viewing of half-time performances for Seniors suspended
  • Designating specific areas for each grade level of students
  • Coaches of all sports will meet with their team to discuss appropriate behavior at events and to have players encourage peers to represent themselves appropriately at games
  • Continued supervision of students by administrators and security staff
  • Fully investigate and address reported behavior from the football game.

Homecoming Dance 

We also want to ensure that tonight’s Homecoming Dance is safe and enjoyable for all of our students who will be attending. We emphasize that inappropriate language and behavior will not be tolerated, and any student suspected of being under the influence will be denied entry and asked to leave. Tickets will not be for sale at the door, and there will be no re-entry if students leave the dance.

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Serrano Apartments (photo via Google Maps)

Work continues at the Serrano Apartments to improve living conditions for residents of the affordable housing complex.

Repair and maintenance work started in earnest after advocates brought to light the deteriorating conditions of the Columbia Pike complex in May. Since then, the County Board has kept tabs on housing nonprofit AHC Inc., which owns the building, and its commitment to make things right.

During the County Board meeting on Tuesday, members said they were pleased to see progress on the physical conditions in the complex. They were dissatisfied, however, with AHC’s communication efforts, after hearing reports from residents and advocates that communication gaps and “disrespectful” treatment persist.

“We’re in the middle, not at the end,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I’m pleased with the micromanagement, candidly, but I think communication is absolutely critical.”

In a letter to the board, Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey said the biggest strides have been removing the rodents and getting a handle on air quality issues.

“It is revealing that little of our September 9, 2021 meeting was dedicated to current physical conditions challenges,” he said.

Susan Cunningham, the interim CEO of AHC appointed after the previous head resigned, said rodent infestation is now down to just three apartments.

Meanwhile, about two dozen units will be abated for asbestos and condensation on cooling pipes. Testing by Arlington County confirmed there were no “systemic air quality issues in the building, no airborne asbestos or lead paint,” she said.

Of the 280 units in the building, the county has inspected all 221 that opted into its inspection program. Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said staff will begin inspecting other aging affordable housing properties for deferred maintenance.

Communication remains a primary concern for the Housing Commission and the County Board. Berkey said to its credit, AHC has made some improvements on that front. Cunningham says AHC now communicates with 85% of residents via text, sends out anonymous third-party surveys, and holds monthly meetings with professional translation services.

But poor treatment of residents continues, longtime advocate Janeth Valenzuela said.

“No one should be asked to put up with dismissive, rude and disrespectful treatment that makes them feel like a problem to be fixed rather than a human being,” she said. “There are fundamental and systemic changes that need to be made at AHC.”

The advocate suggested cultural competency and trauma-informed training for all AHC board members, employees and contractors, as well as customer service training.

Cunningham said a cultural competency curriculum could be in place next year, with trauma-informed training done in-house.

Finally, the County Board urged AHC to prioritize compensating residents whose belongings have been damaged. Residents had reported damage to their possessions when maintenance requests were ignored or mismanaged and during the relocation process some opted into.

AHC has launched a claims process that replicates renters’ insurance, which Cunningham said few residents have.

Although compensation for such losses was a chief priority for the County Board, Valenzuela says a claims system was not set up until ARLnow reported on an online fundraiser for Serrano residents.

AHC “did not offer compensation to residents for property losses until advocates started a public fundraiser that received press attention,” Valenzuela told the Housing Commission, according to Berkey’s letter.

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