Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a $1.4 million construction contract for improvements to N. Pershing Drive.

The project calls for “Complete Streets” safety upgrades at four intersections — three in Lyon Park, near the Lyon Park Community Center, and one in Ashton Heights.

“The project will install curb extensions, bus stop improvements, ADA compliant sidewalks and curb ramps, high-visibility crosswalks and a signal upgrade at the intersection of North Fillmore Street,” a county staff report says. “The project also proposes a bioretention system at the intersection of North Pershing Drive and North Oakland Street. Bioretention is one of the County’s tools to mitigate the water quality impacts from existing development.”

The work is intended to improve safety for all users of the moderately section of busy road, between Washington Blvd and N. Glebe Road.

“Pershing Drive is categorized as an urban minor arterial and serves thousands of automobile trips each day,” the county said on its website. “Pershing Drive also supports bus service (ART & WMATA) and many bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“Pershing Drive is currently marked by many challenging intersections with long crossing distances, non ADA-compliant curb ramps and missing crosswalks,” the website adds. “The Pershing Drive right-of-way is variable and very narrow… meaning little space is available for accommodating multimodal improvements.”

County staff note that the project will not include any flood mitigation efforts:

County staff have reviewed the project location from the perspective of flood risk and found that the project area does not currently experience significant flooding. This area is not identified as a priority location for installing storm infrastructure to reduce the likelihood of flooding, and as a result, storm sewer upgrades are not included in this project.

The four intersections set for construction in late 2020, after the contract is approved, are:

  • Pershing and N. Fillmore Street
  • Pershing and N. Garfield Street
  • Pershing and N. Highland Street
  • Pershing and N. Oakland Street

Arlington County has been working to obtain easements from property owners to facilitate the upgraded sidewalks and other project features. That work is now complete, though the county was not able to obtain easements for upgrades at N. Oxford Street, which was to be the fifth intersection but was subsequently removed from the project.

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Redevelopment on Pause — “Brookfield Properties has suspended plans to launch a major redevelopment of the Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters in Pentagon City once the federal agency moves to its new home in Springfield in mid- to late 2020… it’s a reflection of the new reality that Amazon’s HQ2 has created in the neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vote on Add’l Speeding Fine This Weekend — “Currently, a ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential zone is about $80. The additional fine would bring that ticket to $280. ‘People drive like maniacs around here. It’s about time they got some punishment,’ Arlington resident Jack Feegel said.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Resident Helps Return Lost Dog — “A lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to a passing motorist, who noticed something unusual on their way to work, and a fellow driver farther along the road. Dashcam footage shows the unnamed motorist, from Arlington, Virginia, driving to their workplace in Silver Spring, Maryland, on January 13.” [Daily Mail]

ACFD Responds to Calls in Maryland — It’s rare for the Arlington County Fire Department to respond as mutual aid to an incident in Maryland, but it happened Wednesday morning, with several units dispatched to Prince George’s County. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Tourism Tax May Be Made Permanent — “The Arlington County government looks ready to get a major present from the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly. The state Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates a measure that removes the sunset provision on Arlington’s authority to impose a 0.25-percent surcharge on hotel taxes to support tourism promotion.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: No Streetcar in Georgetown — “Plans to extend the DC Streetcar to Georgetown have been effectively scrapped. The District Department of Transportation is halting all work on the project ‘for the foreseeable future,’ according to documents submitted to the D.C. Council.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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A caucus will be held in May to determine the Democratic endorsees for Arlington School Board.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee announced the caucus dates and format last week. It will be split between two separate days and at two locations, though caucus goers will only need to show up once:

  • Thursday, May 7 from 7-9 p.m. at Drew Elementary (3500 23rd Street S.)
  • Saturday, May 9 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Washington-Liberty High (1301 N. Stafford Street)

The deadline to file as a candidate is March 2. This year’s School Board election will fill two empty seats. The announced candidates so far include:

  • Cristina Diaz-Torres
  • Steven Krieger
  • Sandy Munnell
  • Dave Priddy
  • Terron Sims
  • Symone Walker

School Board races in Virginia are considered nonpartisan, and candidates technically run as independents, but the Arlington Democrats endorsement caucus serves as a kind of de facto primary.

Separately, the local party announced that that it will hold a primary for the Arlington County Board race on Tuesday, June 9. (The presidential “Super Tuesday” primary in Virginia is happening March 3.)

The general election this year will be hold on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The full press release from the Arlington County Democratic Committee is below, after the jump.

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The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider a $4.5 million contract to rehabilitate an out-of-service water main in the middle of N. Glebe Road.

The 36-inch transmission main — the same size as the large pipe that burst and shut down N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge in November — was placed out of service in 2013 due to concerns about a catastrophic failure. A transmission line was built parallel to it after a major water main break on N. Old Glebe Road in 2009 and is currently providing service to the area.

County officials say rehabbing the old main, which was built in 1972, will help provide redundancy in the county’s water system. Arlington’s water comes from the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., by way of pipes that cross the Potomac River at Chain Bridge then branch out to various parts of the county.

The project will run along N. Glebe Road from Old Glebe Road to Little Falls Road — a distance of about 0.8 miles. Residents should expect lane closures and daytime water service interruptions during the course of the project, the county staffers said in a report to the County Board.

The Board is expected to vote on the contract at its meeting this Saturday.

More from the staff report:

This contract is for the rehabilitation of a transmission main built in 1972 in the right-of-way of North Glebe Road between Old North Glebe Road and Little Falls Road. The transmission main was placed out of service due to a catastrophic failure in 2009. The proposed rehabilitation work will prevent the likely future failure of this transmission main and bring it back to service which will provide redundancy for the water main network.

The proposed transmission main rehabilitation is part of the Water Main Rehabilitation / Replacement program outlined in the Capital Improvement Plan. Inspection and evaluation of the existing transmission main subsequent to the November 2009 break revealed that the transmission main was subject to failure. Therefore, a 36″ transmission main was installed in parallel and the existing failing transmission main was placed out of service in 2013. The proposed rehabilitation work consists of lining the existing transmission main that was placed out of service and replacing some portions of it. The overall goal for the proposed rehabilitation is to reinstate the transmission main which is currently out of service and provide the required redundancy to meet water demand in the area. […]

The scope of this project involves the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure along the same corridor and the construction will cause some water services disruptions throughout the duration of the project. These disruptions will not be for an extended period. Traffic flow will be maintained throughout the project duration by keeping at least one lane open each direction during working hours throughout the project duration. The traffic impacts of the project have been communicated via the project website and through Civic Association presidents. Progress updates regarding the construction of the project will continue to be regularly provided to the communities via the two channels noted above.

Upon contract award and before the start of construction, a detailed letter about the project and construction schedule will be sent to the presidents of both Civic Associations and then be distributed to residents who will be directly impacted by the project. Additionally, water service disruptions will be coordinated with the affected residents in advance of any shutdowns. All shutdowns will be limited to construction hours during the work day.

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Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.

Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.

More from Garvey’s speech:

We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.

We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.

First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.

Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.

Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.

So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?

Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.

“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”

Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.

“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.

More from a county press release:

Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”

To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.

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Morning Notes

Pike Lane Closures Prompt Apology — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has apologized that residents, business owners, and commuters weren’t informed how their lives would be temporarily affected by a road construction project on Columbia Pike, near the Fairfax County border,” per WTOP. County officials will be holding a press briefing about the lane closures on the Pike this morning. [WTOP, Arlington County]

Park Near HQ2 May Have Security Features — “Amazon.com Inc. is weighing methods for securing its second headquarters and appears to be looking across the pond for ideas. The U.S. embassy in London… avoids fences in favor of a number of ‘defense strategies’ disguised as a ‘welcoming landscape that is experienced as a public park,’ an Amazon representative told Arlington County officials.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ballroom Closing Is a Changing of the Bro Guards — “The millennials who do end up in Arlington are being drawn to a new generation of bars and nightspots, many of which are run by chef Mike Cordero and partner Scott Parker, including the bustling three-level tequila/tacos restaurant Don Tito… Clarendon may always have a place for the venerable Whitlow’s on Wilson, where the combination of a roof deck and cover bands makes it the most likely refuge for those missing the Ballroom… But it’s clear that Clarendon — at least, its bro-centric archetype — will never be the same.” [Washington Post]

Alabama Man Busted With Loaded Gun at DCA — “An Alabama man started the new year on a sour note when he brought his loaded handgun to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on the first day of the new year.” [Transportation Security Administration]

New Slate of County Board Meetings Set — “Arlington County Board members will hold 11 monthly meetings (Saturdays and the subsequent Tuesdays) in 2020, along with several hearings on the proposed fiscal 2021 budget and capital-improvement projects. Regular meetings will be held on Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 21, April 18, May 16, June 13, July 18, Sept. 12, Oct. 17, Nov. 14 and Dec. 12 and, in each case, the following Tuesdays.” [InsideNova]

‘National Gateway’ Building Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group has sold part of its National Gateway campus in Arlington County, one of a handful of office properties poised to benefit from an expected surge in demand tied to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. The Bethesda developer sold National Gateway II, a roughly 238,031-square-foot building at 3550 S. Clark St., for nearly $60 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Bill Would Allow Open Containers in More Places — “A bill introduced in the Virginia General Assembly would let more shopping center developments offer open-container access under the state’s liquor laws. Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, introduced the measure… The change could theoretically benefit at least a couple of developments in Favola’s backyard,” including the Village at Shirlington and Market Common Clarendon. [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Organizational Meeting Tonight — “The Arlington County Board will elect its 2020 County Board chair and vice-chair at its Organizational Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, at 6 p.m. in the County Board Room, Room 307 in the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center. The Board also will adopt procedures for 2020 and name Board members to represent Arlington on regional bodies.” [Arlington County]

Bank Robbery Suspect Also Faces Charges in Bethesda — “One of three suspects who stole $60,000 worth of jewelry from a Bethesda, Maryland, shop in mid December was arrested Monday after robbing a bank in Arlington, Virginia, police say. Derrick Lamont Graham, 42, walked into the BB&T bank at 2200 Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon on Friday and gave a note to an employee that implied he had a weapon, Arlington County police said.” [NBC 4, WTOP]

New Year’s Eve Problems — From a local Nextdoor user: “Hi everyone I lost the keys to my apartment last night somewhere in Clarendon. If anyone has found a key chain with 1 single key, a fob, and a white “tile,” please contact me!” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey says he should have, upon reflection, informed the community about his personal bankruptcy filing before November’s election.

Dorsey, who was sworn in for a second term last night, answered a series of questions from ARLnow about his bankruptcy, which was first reported by the Washington Post a few days after the election.

The Post reported in November that Dorsey, 48, “filed for bankruptcy last month after falling behind on his mortgage and accruing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.” The paper noted that the bankruptcy filing came as Dorsey’s South Arlington home was facing possible foreclosure and as his wife dealt with health problems.

Questions have arose in the wake of the bankruptcy revelation. For one, given that the filing was made on Oct. 16, should voters have been informed prior to the Nov. 5 election?

Dorsey tells ARLnow that he now regrets not letting people know despite how personal the issue is for him and his family.

“In retrospect, I should have had a conversation with the community, no matter how difficult, when I filed for bankruptcy in mid-October,” Dorsey said via email Thursday evening. “I do believe, however, that I will demonstrate over the next four years that those who voted for me did not make a mistake.”

Dorsey was also asked about an assertion made by the bankruptcy trustee that he had not submitted his previous year’s state income tax return. Dorsey contended that he did, in fact, file his state taxes.

“I filed, yet I discovered at my bankruptcy hearing that the Commonwealth has no record,” he said. “I have resubmitted my 2017 filing.”

(By law, Virginia’s state tax office is prohibited “from providing information or commenting on specific taxpayer situations,” a spokeswoman said.)

Court documents show that Dorsey expects $5,000/mo in “other income” besides his annual County Board salary of just over $60,000. The bankruptcy trustee objected to that, writing that the $5,000/mo figure “has not been documented or verified.” Dorsey says that income comes from consulting work.

“I do policy and communications consulting,” he said. “I am not comfortable talking about my clients within the context of your article, but attest that they are exclusively 501(c)3 non-profits, political non-profits, philanthropic foundations and universities.”

“None are foreign entities,” Dorsey added. “None do business with Arlington County. None have given to my political campaigns.”

Dorsey’s most recent conflict of interest form filed with the Clerk of the County Board discloses outside work with a pair of firms that paid him more than $5,000 annually: KNP Communications and Upswing Strategies, both in D.C.

Though serving on the Arlington County Board is ostensibly a part-time job, Dorsey’s work for Arlington extends beyond the County Board dais to representation on a number of regional bodies. Dorsey serves on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board, is a commissioner on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and represents Arlington on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG).

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(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Could legalizing duplexes and triplexes in certain areas be a way to provide more affordable, middle-income housing in Arlington?

That’s what Arlington County will trying to determine with a new “Missing Middle Housing Study.”

In announcing the study, the county pushed back on the assertion — made by some activists —  that it was looking to eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as was done in Minneapolis. Instead, county staff said that “neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington.”

The study will explore whether allowing more types of housing could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington” and will determine where the new housing types could be allowed so as to be “compatible with existing neighborhoods.”

The study — part of the overall Housing Arlington initiative — is expected to begin in 2020.

Meanwhile, a statewide missing middle housing bill has been proposed. HB 152, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by a Northern Virginia legislator, proposes requiring “all localities to allow development or redevelopment of ‘middle housing’ residential units upon each lot zoned for single-family residential use.”

The press release on the Arlington County housing study is below, after the jump.

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The county’s arts advisory committee has made several recommendations on how Arlington can continue to provide services to its art community.

On October 31, the Arlington Community Arts Advisory Committee (CAAC) released a 60-page report, outlining the committee’s work and what the county can do better.

After two years of research, the advisory committee made four major recommendations:

  • Move the Scenic Studio — used for building sets for theatrical productions — to S. Four Mile Run Drive as part of an “Arts and Industry District” if and when the District is established. Keep it at Gunston for now and consider using it as a “maker space” during hours in which it is otherwise unused.
  • Merge the Signature Theatre and CostumeLab costume inventory and move it into 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive.
  • Get rid of the county’s Mobile Stage truck and use vendors for mobile stages instead.
  • Create a joint scheduling mechanism for Arlington Public Schools and arts organizations to more easily manage bookings of collaborative spaces.

The fifteen members of the advisory committee were selected in 2017 based on their familiarity and dedication to the Arlington arts community — ranging from government staff, to APS workers, to independent artists.

Following a backlash to proposed cuts to the arts in the current county budget, the Arlington County Board requested the advisory group develop a transition plan for Arlington arts programs. The group was tasked with preparing a recommendation for the County Manager by October 31.

More on the then-proposed cuts, via a budget memo from County Manager Mark Schwartz to the Board in March:

…as we spend funds on the arts, we must determine whether the dollars spent make sense for the  services delivered and to make investments which can be delivered to a broader audience. Spending on new and innovative programs, such as the Arlington Art Truck, a platform that brings art to all people in the County, and our upcoming collaboration with WMATA as part of the Digital Engagement Initiative, are examples of efforts that increase accessibility and visibility of the arts at relatively modest costs.

As we continue to look at ways of bringing innovative, efficient and cost‐effective arts programs to more people, there are several long‐standing legacy programs including the CostumeLab, Scenic Studio and Mobile Stage which are rarely, if ever, provided directly by a local government. In Arlington, these services in some instances are used sparingly and episodically throughout the year, but still require intensive staff resources to operate under the current service delivery model. My proposal does not recommend removing the space or assets of these functions, but rather a re‐evaluation of how the functions are being supported by the County.

Earlier this week, local citizens group Embracing Arlington Arts released a statement supporting the CAAC’s recommendations. The group’s president, Janet Kopenhaver, and board member Sara Duke, both serve on the committee.

“After months of very productive discussions among the CAAC members, we believe we arrived at fair and equitable recommendations that were recently presented to the County Manager,” Kopenhaver said.

“It is key that the appropriate representatives sit on this committee from both the arts world and the public schools,” she continued. “Plus, they still have some critical things to iron out before we can declare the process fully successful.”

More on the group’s recommendations below, after the jump.

Photo via Flickr/Celeste Lindell

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County Board members enthusiastically and unanimously passed six amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance intended to open up more elder care housing in Arlington.

Developers can now build elder care facilities across 18 zoning districts, after being limited to a handful of possible location for such facilities before.

The Board also voted to update parking standards and to update definitions for terms such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and continuing care retirement in county code, allowing more types of elder care facilities to be built.

Parking regulations for assisted living spaces and independent living facilities are now set to 0.5 spaces per bedroom, while the minimum parking requirement for nursing homes is now 0.5 spaces per bed.

“It really is good, it’s a need — there are more and more of us in this demographic every day and we need to be thinking about it,” said County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey.

There are more than 35,000 Arlington residents above the age of 60, according to a county staff report.

“This represents 14% of the County’s population, and this percentage is expected to grow in the coming decades,” the report notes. “Across the nation, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030.”

The zoning changes were bolstered by the results of year-long study by the Arlington County Zoning Committee. Hundreds of Arlington residents answered surveys and participated in public forums and meetings. During an October community forum, participants were asked to place stickers on a map indicating where they would like to see future elder care housing.

“The study provided a community-wide forum for discussing a host of issues about housing for our older residents,” said principal planner Nick Rodgers. “It’s something that touches all of us — everyone has, or will have, an older loved one who will likely need this kind of extra help at one time or another.”

The zoning changes notably allow a proposed six-story senior living center along the 4300 block of Lee Highway to move forward.  McLean-based developer Artis Senior Living filed plans with the county in March to build a 175-unit property, but per zoning laws, was not permitted to construct in the area.

“I think this is an excellent body of work,” said board chair Katie Cristol. “And it will serve one definitive plan, and I hope with many more to come.”

There are currently 12 elderly residential care facilities in Arlington, all built before 2013 — when the county tightened zoning regulations, effectively limiting elder care facilities to a handful of smaller spaces meant for hospitals. The most recent facility is Mary Marshall Assisted Living, which opened in the Penrose neighborhood in 2011 and is funded by the county.

Photo (1) via sunriseseniorliving.com

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