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Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph speaks to the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, Nov. 15 (via Arlington County)

Nine months after the summer camp registration process completely broke down yet again, the Arlington County parks department says it has identified ways to improve the process for summer 2023 and beyond.

Every year, parents get their clicking fingers ready to register at a given time — 7 a.m. for summer camps — and every year, error messages and spinning wheels thwart their ability to snag an enviable spot for their kids. In February, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation department promised new changes would ensure this didn’t happen again.

But it did. On Feb. 23, DPR says registration volumes caused a “system-wide failure” while parents reported long wait times for the call center. Frustrated moms and dads wrote to ARLnow, tweeted and brought their complaints to the Arlington County Board, which penned a lengthy statement about expectations for reforming the process — only for the platform to fizzle and call center to get overwhelmed three weeks later for spring class registration.

Over the last seven months, DPR reviewed what happened.

“Our registration system could not handle peak volume,” Director Jane Rudolph told the County Board on Tuesday. “We really don’t have a ton of staff who are skilled at that technology piece of knowing how to use the system, so we have a lack of redundancy on our side. We didn’t have a great crisis communications plan.”

It asked staff and two focus groups — the general public and specifically, families who report receiving registration fee reductions — about changes they would like to see. Mostly, people said “fix the system,” but some suggested different registration times and dates and requested improvements to registering multiple children.

Ahead of 2023 registration, DPR says technology provider Vermont Systems will modernize its platform, last updated in 2015, and introduce a virtual “waiting room” function to manage volumes. The parks department will allow families with documented hardships to register a week early and expand its call center from 50 lines to 100.

The “waiting room” functionality was first rolled out for fall class registration and seemingly solved the issue of the system crashing completely, though some parents still reported problems, including errors, slow load times and classes that seemingly filled up within a minute.

“We wanted to create a less stressful registration process, so that parents and caregivers can go into the summer being confident their kids will have a great experience at Arlington camps,” she said.

Other recommendations include:

  • beginning registration at noon on a weekday, rather than at 7 a.m.
  • splitting up registration for DPR-led and contracted-out camps
  • enforcing a stricter refund policy to discourage last-minute dropping out
  • increasing capacity at popular camps to upwards of 100 slots
  • adding more full-day, year-round offerings
  • reducing camps with low-enrollment, low-capacity or which run half-day
  • implementing a crisis communications plan

Board members welcomed the work, particularly the effort to improve access for underserved families.

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Arlington County Mark Schwartz (file photo by Jay Westcott)

Predicting a potential $35-million deficit in the 2023-24 fiscal year, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommends putting nearly all of the unspent funds from last fiscal year toward balancing that budget.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the Arlington County Board approved the close of the 2021-22 budget with nearly $26.9 million in unspent, unencumbered “closeout” funds leftover. In the same meeting, county staff briefed the Board on its grim predictions for the 2023-24 budget, planning for which is already underway.

The county attributes the $26.9 million surplus to a better-than-projected tax year and fewer expenses than anticipated.

“This was primarily the result of a slowdown in departmental operations due to COVID coupled with retention and staff hiring challenges,” per a county report. “In addition, Countywide health care costs were less than anticipated.”

The 2022 closeout funds represent 2.4% of the county budget (excluding Arlington Public Schools expenditures) and mark an increase from last year, when the county ended the 2021 fiscal year with $20.4 million — or 2.2% of the budget — leftover.

Those closeout funds, coupled with federal funding, went to pandemic recovery, childcare, criminal justice reform and other equity initiatives. But now, Schwartz says the county needs the 2022 closeout funds for balancing the budget.

“Given the pressures that we’re facing in fiscal year ’24… my recommendation is that the discretionary balance of [$26.9] million that is available in closeout be set aside so that the board can consider it for potential use as part of the fiscal ’24 budget process,” Schwartz said on Tuesday afternoon during an Arlington County Board meeting.

Arlington County Budget Director Richard Stephenson said the projections are not uniformly bad news.

“It’s a good news, and not-so-good news, story,” he said. “County revenue that we’re projecting for 2024 is positive. Unfortunately, as we’re looking ahead, the expenditure side of the equation is going to outpace the revenue growth we’re projecting.”

Total tax growth is projected to be up 3.4% before sharing revenue with Arlington Public Schools. That is driven by increases in real estate assessments as well as taxes on personal property, Business, Professional and Occupational Licenses, sales and meals.

Budget assumptions for 2023-24 (via Arlington County)

Another bright spot, Stephenson said, is that sales and meals taxes have not only bounced back from the pandemic, but they have also surpassed pre-pandemic levels. He said the county expects the hotel tax will eventually catch up, too.

Sales and meals taxes have bounced back from the pandemic, and hotel taxes are not far behind (via Arlington County)

Still, Stephenson said, said the county has a number of “self-evident” concerns at the start of budget planning for the 2023-24 budget: inflation and wage growth, the transition from one-time federal funding — from sources such as the American Rescue Plan — to ongoing local funding for some projects, and the impact of interest rates.

Climbing interest rates and office vacancy rates, however, are threatening a “significant portion” of Arlington’s General Fund budget, or revenue from commercial real estate tax, Stephenson says.

Climbing interest rates and office vacancy rates comprise two hits to tax revenue (via Arlington County)

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said this information “gives a good bit of context” to Schwartz’s recommendation to lean on unspent, unencumbered “closeout” funds next year.

“For my part, I do think this is an easy decision to carry the fiscal ’22 closeout to fiscal ’24, and that may be the last time the term ‘easy decision’ is used in the same sentence as ‘fiscal ’24 budget,'” she said.

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The Arlington County Board on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 8:50 a.m. on 11/17/22) Arlington County is looking to the state legislature to help with some key priorities, including combating malicious 911 calls and predatory towing.

These are two of many issues that the county intends to have local legislators lobby for in the upcoming 2023 Virginia General Assembly session, which runs for 45 days beginning on Jan. 11, 2023.

The county’s legislative priorities address public safety, energy, transportation, criminal justice reform, affordable housing and mental health, among other things. The list of priorities was drafted with input from local commissions, advisory groups, county staff, the County Board and community members.

On Saturday, Ilana Creinin, the legislative liaison for Arlington County, told the County Board that “swatting,” or fake calls to emergency services with the intent to draw out a police response, are on the rise, and the county would support legislation that would combat it. Recent examples include a false active shooter call at Washington-Liberty High School in September and a false report of a shooting inside a home in October.

“We want to make sure we’re able to combat the act of making a hoax communication to 911,” Creinin said. “We’ve seen in some of our schools there’s been an uptick in instances of people calling in false communications.”

A county report outlining the priorities did not say what kind of legislation it would support.

Meanwhile, Arlington County is looking to support legislation that provides parity for Northern Virginia, compared with the rest of the state, when pursuing litigation against towing companies through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

County Board member Takis Karantonis said he is “very happy” to “see push for consumer protection against predatory towing in our region.”

Del. Alfonso Lopez supported a bill last year, which failed, that would have given residents and localities more ability to protect themselves against bad-actor towing companies. The bill responded to public scrutiny of Ballston-based Advanced Towing, which is frequently accused of unsafe and predatory towing practices, though such accusations fizzled in court after the previous state Attorney General sued the company.

One legislative priority carried over from last year would address the state mental health crisis caused by a workforce shortage and a lack of beds in state-run mental hospitals.

With fewer staff to run them, the Commonwealth closed more than half of these hospitals to new admissions, overwhelming local hospitals and the Arlington County Police Department and driving fatigued county clinicians and Arlington police officers to quit.

“As you know, we’re still going through a large mental health crisis in our state with both staffing shortages and also a lack of state hospital beds,” said Creinin. “We want to work toward solving this crisis.”

Others respond to actions taken or proposed by the Republican-controlled state house or the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.).

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Election Day 2022 in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In the primary election next June, registered voters will be able to rank their preferred candidates for a seat on the Arlington County Board.

The change comes after the Arlington County Board unanimously endorsed testing out ranked-choice voting for County Board elections on Saturday.

“This reform alone will not be sufficient to overcome… the forces trying to undermine our democratic traditions,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “Nevertheless, I think this is worth trying. I hope that we can not only excite Arlington voters about the potential, give them an opportunity to express the full range of their preferences, but also provide a model to other communities.”

The Board’s decision makes Arlington the first locality in Virginia to move forward on adopting ranked-choice voting.

UpVote Virginia, a newly formed nonpartisan organization that supports changes like ranked-choice voting, celebrated the move.

“It’s not everyday in Virginia you can say you were the first to do something, but this resolution truly does signify a historic opportunity,” UpVote Virginia Executive Director Liz White said. “Looking forward, we hope your example today will set the stage for other localities across the Commonwealth.”

The change, which would only apply to primaries run by the county’s Office of Elections, comes months ahead of the primary. Legally, the Board has until March 22, 2023 to enact RCV for the June 20 primary.

Local political parties will declare whether they will pick their nominee via a primary run by Arlington’s election office or a party-run convention.

According to White, the method has bipartisan support.

“Even longtime political rivals have found common ground in support of ranked-choice voting,” she told the Board on Saturday. “At UpVote Virginia’s launch event in August, we heard remarks in favor of RCV from your very own Democratic Congressman Don Beyer and former Gov. George Allen, a Republican. It’s not often you get those two speaking at the same event, but that really encapsulates how broad RCV’s appeal can be.”

And in Arlington, a recently closed survey that netted 786 responses found that the majority of respondents support the change.

Support for ranked-choice voting drawn from a survey of Arlingtonians (via Arlington County)

Per the survey, support fluctuated some based on zip code. Support was weakest in the 22207 zip code — residential northern Arlington, which trends a bit more conservative than the rest of deep blue Arlington — where 63% of 152 residents support it. That compared with 75% of 177 residents in the 22201 zip code, which includes part of the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor.

Other zip codes with smaller response rates had higher favorability rates.

Support for ranked-choice voting by zip code in Arlington (via Arlington County)

The potential change comes on the heels of other voting reforms enacted by the state, including expanded access to absentee ballots, new automatic and same-day voter registration and new legislative maps.

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Arlington Independent Media staff at work (via Arlington County)

Clarendon-based Arlington Independent Media (AIM) is expanding to a second location in Green Valley.

The community media organization will be taking over three underused audio-visual production studios at the Arlington Arts’ 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive location, according to a county press release.

AIM, which has a 40-year history in Arlington, produces video, audio, web and digital content for locals and operates the radio station WERA 96.7 FM.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a lease agreement for AIM to occupy the studio, office and storage space at 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive. This space was constructed as a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in the mid-1940s and later served as WETA’s radio broadcast facility, per the press release.

For the next five years, with the option to extend the lease for another 25 years, AIM will occupy up to roughly 1,071 square feet, comprised of three vacant offices, two storage spaces and three studio spaces, according to the county. AIM will maintain its primary broadcast functions in Clarendon at 2701 Wilson Blvd.

Arlington acquired the facility in the early 2000s to house the Theatre on the Run black box venue, rehearsal spaces, dance studios, offices and gallery space. The studios AIM will now occupy were since used for both county and independent projects, such as the recording of a solo album by local bluegrass fiddler Roy “Speedy” Tolliver (1918-2017).

According to a county report, the new satellite location will increase collaboration between the county’s Cultural Affairs Division and AIM on audio-visual production and broadcasting projects.

“I am extremely proud and humbled to lead AIM as we expand into secondary space in South Arlington. As a longtime resident of Arlington, I respect and appreciate the rich history of the County, specifically Green Valley,” says AIM CEO Whytni Kernodle. “Team AIM is excited to bring community media to South Arlington, we look forward to connecting with the local community, meeting residents and business owners, and more.”

During the Saturday County Board meeting, Board Chair Katie Cristol said the expansion is “a long time in coming” for the “powerhouse” in media education and training, and independent art, news and entertainment.

“This unique collaboration will expand arts education and access to the wider Arlington community and provide the opportunity to share knowledge and resources,” Cristol later said in a statement. “The partnership also further the goals and vision for a thriving ‘arts and industry’ in the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan by bringing community broadcast services as well as audio visual educational programming to the area.”

Arlington began using the “Four Mile Run Valley” name interchangeably with Green Valley — to the chagrin of some residents, who say it erases the historically Black community — in connection with a planning study that proposed an “arts and industry district” in the area.

The county is taking other steps to infuse the area with more arts programming and community facilities. Last year, Arlington acquired the former location of Inner Ear Recording Studios, once the epicenter of D.C.’s punk scene, and has plans to demolish the famed recording studio in a bid, it says, to make arts more accessible in south Arlington.

It now has ideas for a temporary outdoor arts space where the recording studio once stood (2700 S. Nelson Street). Locals can now share feedback on the future creative open space through Monday, Nov. 21.

The county says that AIM’s satellite location will “help to advance the County’s equity goals by offering the opportunity for community broadcast services and education in south Arlington and aligning with AIM’s mission to increase diverse and inclusive access to established and emerging public media for all members of our community.”

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Comcast logo (courtesy Comcast)

Arlington County is extending its agreement with Comcast for a year.

Comcast has held the county’s main cable franchise since 1998, when it was awarded to a cable operator it later acquired. The Philadelphia-based media and telecom conglomerate last had its local franchise agreement renewed for a standard five-year term in 2016.

The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic TV and internet service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington. Such agreements are made at the state or locality level and mandated by Congress.

The government-granted monopoly lets cable operators make the significant investment required to string cable and connect homes while local governments get fees and/or other benefits in return. Without such agreements and regulation, utility poles might be full of competing cable infrastructure and companies might opt to only serve the more profitable parts of town.

The Arlington County Board voted over the weekend to extend the agreement for a year while it continues to negotiate with Comcast, a process that was disrupted by the pandemic, according to a staff report. It also took three years of extensions before the last long-term agreement was signed.

The current agreement will now run through next December. Comcast has indicated that it wants to renew the long-term agreement and keep serving Arlington.

More from the staff report:

The County Board has issued Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity to three entities for the provision of cable television service: Comcast, Verizon, and RCN Corporation. The Comcast franchise was previously extended by one year and now expires on December 9, 2022. To continue the Comcast renewal process, the County must extend the existing Certificate.

[…]

By letter dated March 6, 2019, Comcast sent to the County a notice of its desire to renew the Certificate, as provided for by 47 U.S.C. § 546. The COVID pandemic significantly impacted the County’s ability to commence good-faith face-to-face negotiations. Accordingly, the proposed Resolution extends the period available for negotiation beyond the expected duration of the pandemic from December 9, 2022 to December 9, 2023.

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Two affordable housing complexes in Arlington are teed up for renovations, including units on a site also set for redevelopment.

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing will upgrade 62 units at the Marbella Apartments (1301 N. Queen Street) and 101 units at the Arna Valley View Apartments (2300 25th Street S.), says Elise Panko, APAH’s Resource Development and Communications Manager. The properties consist of a group of garden-style apartment buildings north near Rosslyn and mid-rise buildings between Pentagon City and Shirlington.

The affordable housing developer is asking the county for a new $995,000 Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) loan for this project, which the Arlington County Board is slated to review this Saturday. Existing financing for these developments, to the tune of $10.45 million, will roll over for these projects.

This work is in addition to a redevelopment project at the Marbella site, where some buildings will be torn down to build two 12-story apartment towers with all units set aside for people earning less than the area median income. In February, the Board awarded APAH $21.4 million for the project and approved the redevelopment.

The remaining buildings, built in the 1940s and not renovated in at least 15 years, are in need of an upgrade, Panko said. Renovations here will target buildings to the north of the redevelopment area and across N. Queen Street from it.

Marbella Apartments site map (via KG&D Architects/Vimeo)

Likewise, Arna Valley View has not been renovated since its construction 21 years ago and had developed some maintenance issues.

The brick façades of the Marbella buildings will get new mortar while the Arna Valley buildings will get new siding and garage and walkway repairs. Units in both complexes will get updated finishes, fixtures and appliances, new kitchen cabinets, heating and cooling systems, roofs and windows. Renovations will improve energy efficiency by about 30%, Panko says.

“It is important for APAH to reinvest in its existing assets to ensure that the quality of housing we provide remains at a high standard,” she added.

Panko says APAH has been working with residents on a relocation plan that was approved by the Arlington Tenant-Landlord Commission.

“Residents will be moved off site for approximately six to eight weeks while their units are renovated, and will then return to their same unit,” Panko said. “We do not anticipate any displacement of existing residents because of the renovation.”

Per the February report on the redevelopment project, these renovations were set to occur starting mid-2022. APAH spokesman Garrett Jackson says the delays were due to the additional time needed to secure financing sources as well as getting building permits in hand.

APAH had tried to avoid asking the Board for financing for the renovations, according to the report. But then the economy took a turn.

“Construction costs and interest rates have been very volatile in 2022 (interest rates just in the last few months, but construction costs have been rising since early 2022) — it was the result of both of those things that caused us to need additional funding from the County,” APAH spokesman Garrett Jackson said. “During the Marbella site plan approval, those cost increases had not yet hit the market and we believed that we could accomplish the renovation with no additional AHIF (that had long been our goal).”

So it secured a $700,000 Virginia Housing Trust Fund loan and $2 million in state loans that specifically target energy efficiency upgrades to lower the ask to the board. APAH is also chipping in $11.7 million, and has secured $22.8 million in 4% low-income housing tax credits, and $2.5 million from deferring a developer fee associated with affordable housing development.

“We squeezed contingency and other sources as much as possible throughout 2022… but ultimately between costs and interest rates, we had to go back to the County and request an increase in AHIF funding,” he said.

APAH will also combine the two apartment complexes into a single ownership entity, which will generate more tax credits and reduce the amount of county financing needed, Panko noted.

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Some safety and accessibility improvements to a busy intersection in Pentagon City, near Costco, could move forward soon.

If the Arlington County Board awards the contract, which it is slated to do this weekend, the S. Fern Street and 15th Street S. intersection would to get a new traffic signal, while the existing paver crosswalks — which appear to be deteriorating — will be replaced with marked crosswalks.

The southwest corner would get a curb extension and the southeast corner will get new curb ramps and curb and gutter. Arlington County says the project will have “minimal impacts” to nearby properties, according to a board report.

The report says says it is undertaking this project because it probably won’t happen in conjunction with private redevelopment projects. Arlington County uses the bevy of development in Pentagon City and Crystal City — including Amazon’s HQ2 — as a vehicle for providing public benefits such as revamping old streetscapes.

“This project is part of the ongoing Crystal City/Pentagon City Accessibility and Safety Improvements in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that makes repairs and improvements to crosswalks and curb ramps, traffic signal upgrades, landscape upgrades, bike facility upgrades, signage and striping modifications, and streetlighting,” according to a board report. “The project focuses on areas outside existing, discrete projects and private developments that are making similar improvements.”

This intersection is a few blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station and right by Amazon’s second headquarters, the first phase of which is under-construction and the second phase of which obtained Arlington County Board approval earlier this year.

Site context for the proposed improvements to the 15th Street S. and S. Fern Street intersection in Pentagon City (via Arlington County)

The nearly $698,000 contract, which includes almost $91,000 in contingency, is slated to go before the County Board for approval on Saturday.

It will mostly be covered with a $635,062 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

The project is part of an ongoing program to upgrade traffic signal infrastructure, per the county report.

“Transportation Engineers use a variety of methods to prioritize signal upgrade locations, including the type of signal, age of the infrastructure, and the type of roadway facilities impacted,” according to the county website.

The report says staff will update the community in the weeks leading up to construction and periodically during construction via an email group list, a construction notification letter, the project webpage and the neighborhood-based social network Nextdoor.

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Katie Cristol (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol does not plan to run for reelection in 2023.

Cristol confirmed her decision to ARLnow last night, after it was mentioned near the bottom of a Washington Post article about Tuesday’s election.

She released the following statement about her decision.

I plan to conclude my service on the Board after two terms for a number of reasons. Among the most important is the same reason I decided to run in the first place: Arlington is stronger when the full community is represented, and it’s time to make room for new perspectives.

In 2015, I argued that representation of the County’s growing plurality — under 35, renter (or in my case then, very recent renter and new homeowner), resident of our urban corridors — would benefit everyone. I believe that many of our accomplishments over the past eight years have borne that out. Young professional talent has been a key asset in Arlington’s major economic development achievements like landing Amazon’s HQ2, for instance. Major expansions in our supply of childcare for families have significantly improved our whole community’s resiliency. Having transit riders represent Arlington on, and chair, regional bodies as we achieved landmark infrastructure investments (in VRE, in the Long Bridge expansion, in the historic Metro capital funding agreement) has helped knit our whole region closer together and has elevated the County’s role in that region.

Eight years on, there’s a new generation that deserves its own chance to be heard. I’ve also had many conversations with community members over the past two years about race, equity and power in Arlington. For me, that’s highlighted that “stage of life” isn’t the only demographic experience that makes residents feel under- or unrepresented in decision-making in the County.

It’s of course up to the voters to determine who will serve next. But in the same way that Arlington voters took a chance and gave me an opportunity in 2015, I want to make space for a new perspective on the County Board now. I really do believe we’ll all benefit when we’re all represented.

Cristol and Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey will be finishing up their second term next year. There have been rumors for months that neither are running again.

Dorsey did not tip his hand when reached for comment.

“I have no announcement to make at this time,” he told ARLnow.

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(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington’s Missing Middle housing proposal has aroused plenty of passion, but the strong opposition (and support) only registered a blip in last night’s election results.

Democrat incumbent Matt de Ferranti easily won his re-election bid for the Arlington County Board, with 61% of the vote to 28% for Audrey Clement and 10% for Adam Theo. (All but one county precinct have reported results as of publication.)

Leading up to the election, Missing Middle — a series of zoning changes that would potentially allow the construction of townhouses, duplexes and 3-8 unit buildings in districts zoned for single-family homes — had become a battleground issue for candidates.

De Ferranti staked out a middle ground on the issue, supporting lower density types such as duplexes, three-unit townhomes and fourplexes, but not eight-plexes, while independent candidate Adam Theo did not support any caps on density.

Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement opposed the plan full-stop based on concerns about its impact on the environment and county infrastructure, as well as concerns of displacement.

Proponents of the zoning change say last night’s results indicate as the support of most residents and the County Board needs to crack on with approving it.

“Arlington County voters have spoken,” said YIMBYs of Northern Virginia in a statement. “In a race that was widely seen as a de facto referendum on the Missing Middle housing proposal, 70% of voters chose a candidate who ran in support of these zoning reforms. Legalizing diverse forms of housing throughout Arlington County is not only existentially important to making the housing market function again and building a more inclusive Arlington. It is also good politics.”

The organization’s Activism Coordinator Grace White said Arlington is mostly made of renters and people who live in multifamily buildings, but they’re constrained to 25% of the land.

“To them, Missing Middle housing is a no-brainer, and necessary for them to see any kind of future here,” she said.

Opponents, like Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, say the proposal has the same flaws today as it did the day before the election, and its members will continue educating voters about what those are.

“Speaking for ASF, the only way to really know in a comprehensive way what Arlington residents think on Missing Middle would be to have a referendum,” says group founder Peter Rousselot. “That would be a clear way for people to express how they feel about Missing Middle. In an election we just had where there are so many other issues being talked about, the whole impact is diluted a lot.”

How Missing Middle split voters

For George Mason University Mercatus Center senior research fellow Emily Hamilton, the results appeared to mirror Arlington’s geography.

“I’m not sure to what extent voters were focused on Missing Middle versus other issues, but it does seem that the election results followed housing typologies, with Clement doing the best in some of the least-dense parts of North Arlington and Theo doing the best in some of the densest,” she said.

“The results show that while people who are opposed to Missing Middle have been visible at public engagement sessions and with yard signs,” Hamilton continued, “most voters didn’t cast use their vote to oppose Missing Middle.”

A precinct map of Arlington County, showing the four precincts where independent Audrey Clement beat Democrat Matt de Ferranti (via Virginia Public Access Project)

Arlington County Republican Committee communications chair Matthew Hurtt says the debate split Arlington Republicans, too, with an “overwhelming majority” of the Arlington GOP opposing the proposal, but “a strong contingent” of Young Republicans supporting it.

“The Arlington GOP likely broke for Audrey Clement, while the YRs likely broke for Adam Theo,” he said.

(Theo, who has described himself as “an independent progressive libertarian,” has advocated for streamlining building permits, lowering property taxes and allowing more housing to be built.)

Despite the divide, Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Steve Baker says he hopes the problem of housing affordability can get Arlingtonians to work toward a solution.

“I think we all agree that in a county where a residential lot costs over $1 million, that housing will remain one of our key issues,” he said. “Even though some candidates tried to use our varying views to divide us, Arlingtonians voted to affirm that we can solve our biggest challenges together.”

De Ferranti echoed this sentiment last night.

“We have to tackle housing with creativity and commitment, and that means both affordable housing and housing affordability — which are related but distinct,” he said. “We need to have a civil discussion and stay engaged in the work needed to address housing affordability.”

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(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) What many believed would be the most competitive Arlington County Board race in four years has turned out to be another convincing Democratic victory.

The three-way race between incumbent Democrat Matt de Ferranti and independents Audrey Clement and Adam Theo is, at least to some degree, a referendum on Missing Middle housing.

Clement strongly opposes the proposal to allow smaller-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently zoned only for single-family homes, while Theo supports it. De Ferranti, meanwhile, staked out a middle ground, expressing opposition to the higher 8-unit end of the potential range of allowed housing types.

With 55 out of 57 precincts reporting, de Ferranti has 60% of the vote to 28% for Clement and 10% for Theo.

Both Clement and Theo ran for County Board last year, before Missing Middle came to the fore as a hot-button local issue. In the 2021 race, Democrat Takis Karantonis carried about 60% of the vote to 18% for Clement, 6% for Theo and 14% for Mike Cantwell, another independent candidate..

The Missing Middle proposal has attracted the ire of many homeowners, while a coalition of groups — from affordable housing boosters to the local chapter of the NAACP — support it.

An early look at precinct-by-precinct results shows support for Clement in Arlington’s northern, single-family home neighborhoods. The Madison district in far northern Arlington, for instance, has voted 58% for Clement to 36% for de Ferranti and 4% for Theo. She also claimed the Thrifton (Woodmont), Rock Spring, and Yorktown districts — all also in far northern Arlington.

That compares to the more renter-heavy Met Park district, in the Pentagon City neighborhood, which voted 64% for de Ferranti and 20% for Clement and 15% for Theo.  A more “in between” district — Fairlington, with its mix of townhouses and smaller condo buildings — voted 66% for de Ferranti, 23% for Clement and 9% for Theo.

Also on the ballot today were School Board and congressional races, which were even more lopsided for the Democratic candidates.

For the open Arlington School Board seat vacated by Barbara Kanninen, Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed candidate Bethany Sutton has 68% of the vote to 30% for independent James ‘Vell’ Rives IV.

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer has 77% of the vote in the Virginia 8th District congressional race, to 21% for Republican Karina Lipsman and 1.5% for independent Teddy Fikre.

Arlington Democrats claimed victory on Twitter just after 9 p.m.

De Ferranti tells ARLnow he was impressed by the 85,000 people who voted this election, in which there was no senatorial, gubernatorial or presidential race.

“In Virginia, that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “There are other elections where there is an even lower turnout. This is a pretty rare election, and to have 85,000 vote in this election is a pretty solid turnout.”

He said addressing climate change, investing in schools and tackling affordable housing and housing affordability — “related but distinct” issues — will be key priorities this term.

“I’m grateful to Arlington residents for the chance to serve them,” he said. “I love doing this job and I’m humbled, grateful, and looking forward to serving over the next four years. I’m going to try and live up to Arlingtonians: that means being smart, thoughtful and compassionate, caring about our community and being forward-looking.”

Clement told ARLnow she was dismayed with the results, though she won four out of 54 districts — including Madison, with her 22-point margin — and came within just over 1% of the vote in another.

“I didn’t perform as well as I thought I would,” she said. “I thought I would push 40% — the sentiment I got on the street indicated a better showing.”

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