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by Heather Mongilio — October 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm 630 0

Mike McMenaminAffordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.

The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.

“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.

The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.

McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.

Audrey Clement

One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.

“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.

The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.

“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.

Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.

Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.

Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.

Christian DorseyIt is on the community’s shoulder to tell County Board members what the problems are in the county, Dorsey said.

“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”

It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.

“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.

Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.

It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.

If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.

“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.

Katie CristolIn addition to fixing the “Arlington Way,” all candidates pledged to focus on the school capacity crisis and the commercial vacancy rate issues that are plaguing the county.

Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.

“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.


by ARLnow.com — October 5, 2015 at 10:20 am 1,685 0

Dentist Dr. Joseph Khalil(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board last month came one vote away from kicking out a long-time Courthouse dentist office.

The little-noticed item came at the end of a long County Board meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.

At issue during the 40 minute discussion of the item: whether the dentist’s office — Courthouse Art of Dentistry — should be allowed to stay in the Courthouse Plaza shopping center at 2250 Clarendon Blvd as part of a regularly-scheduled Site Plan Amendment review.

County Board member Libby Garvey, who supported the office in the vote, wrote about it in her most recent email newsletter to constituents.

There has been a dentist at Courthouse Plaza for about 20 years, although the site plan originally called for retail to be in that space. Repeated attempts by retail stores to locate there had resulted in several store closures, so a waiver was granted to allow a dental office. The waiver was up for renewal. The dental office has thrived, the dentist does pro bono work for the Free Clinic and takes hotel guests when they need a dentist. A few people insisted that this location was not compliant with the site plan and the dentist had to go. The building owner said he could find no one else to fill that space and asked us to please allow the dentist to stay. Hundreds of patients and supporters signed a petition asking for the dentist to stay. Still…..this was the third time in a year he had to come before the Board pleading for us to allow his successful business to stay. He can stay, but the vote was far too close: 3-2. I thanked the dentist for all he does for our community. I told him and his many supporters who stayed until 11:55pm I was embarrassed the Board made this so hard for a successful business that serves Arlington well. It really was one of the more bizarre issues I’ve dealt with as a Board member.

Speakers at the meeting universally called for the Board to let the dentist office stay. The attorney for owner Dr. Joseph Khalil said that they had collected about 500 signatures in support of the practice. (The office is thriving and has 2,200 patients, the attorney said.)

Courthouse Art of Dentistry office (photo via Arlington County)The lone voice opposing the office was the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association, which wanted a more “active” business in the space, which is located across from Fireworks Pizza.

“CCCA renews our objection and voted to firmly oppose a permanent exception to the dentist office in a space designated for anchor retail as far back as 10 years,” civic association president Adam Thocher said in an email to county staff. “We encourage ongoing discussion between [landlord] Equity and Arlington Economic Development to market and secure a tenant that will help fulfill the promise made to the community of activating Courthouse Plaza.”

County staff, however, said that the use was appropriate and consistent with the county’s new Retail Action Plan, which allows for “retail equivalent” uses like medical and dental offices in lieu of more traditional stores and restaurants in certain retail zones, including the Courthouse area.

“We believe the use provides service to residents and to office workers in the plaza,” said Michael Cohen, a county staff member.

The dentist’s attorney, meanwhile, said that the retail landscape has changed since a dentist’s office first opened in the space in 1993. (It has since changed ownership.) She said that online shopping has limited the utility of small retail storefronts and that Courthouse Plaza already has stores that commonly use such spaces — a coffee shop, a cell phone store, etc.

“Voting against this would be inconsistent with policy… and inconsistent with the notion that we should be supporting long-standing local businesses,” said the attorney, Sara Mariska.

Mike Farrey, brother of a dentist at the practice, suggested that a dentist office might even be preferable to an “active” use.

“There are enough coffee shops and restaurants in Arlington, and enough empty storefronts,” he said.

Patients of the office who spoke at the meeting said that there’s no justification for making a successful, community-serving business pack up and move. One called it “un-American.”

“I feel like this is a complete waste of community resources,” said the man. “It’s not a gentlemen’s club, it’s not a bar, it’s not an adult bookstore… what use is it to create another empty storefront?”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said another patient.

In the end, the Board voted 3-2 — with retiring County Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada voting in the minority — to renew the site plan amendment and allow the dentist to stay, with no further scheduled reviews.

County Board member John Vihstadt said that kicking the dentist out would only create an empty storefront, agreeing with Dr. Khalil’s attorney in suggesting that the space was too small and ill-configured to be attractive to any likely “active” retail tenant.

“Why would we want to open up a new cavity in Courthouse Plaza?” he quipped.

by ARLnow.com — September 29, 2015 at 10:45 am 851 0

Cloudy view of the District from Arlington House (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Board Candidates Debate, Find AgreementUpdated at 12:30 p.m. — The four candidates for Arlington County Board participated in a candidates forum organized by the Arlington Forest Civic Association last night. The candidates found agreement on two notable issue: affordable housing shouldn’t be built on parkland — or, at least, certain parkland — and county property taxes shouldn’t be raised at this time. [Washington Post]

JPod Meeting on the Pike — The man behind a proposal to bring a monorail-like pod transportation system to Columbia Pike made his case to residents and to County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada at the Walter Reed Community Center last night. There are still several potential deal-breaking questions about the feasibility of the proposal. [InsideNova]

Teachers Training on Digital Devices — Arlington Public Schools continues to train teachers and educate parents about the use of digital devices like iPads and MacBooks in schools. APS is continuing its rollout of “personalized” devices, with the goal of each student having their own device. [Arlington Public Schools]

Exercise Helped Real-World Response at VHC — Arlington County says that an emergency response exercise at Virginia Hospital Center two years ago greatly helped the real-world response to a fire at the hospital last week. Evacuations of patients went smoothly and no one was hurt. [Arlington County]

GOP Presidential Candidate in Arlington TodayLong-shot Republican presidential candidate and former New York governor George Pataki will be speaking at George Mason University’s Arlington campus this afternoon. The speech on domestic and foreign policy is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).

Another South Arlington School Site Identified — A county working group is continuing its effort to identify a preferred site for a new elementary school in South Arlington, to be built by 2019, but in the meantime the group has identified a potential future school site. The South Arlington Working Group says a school could be built by 2024 on parcels of land that currently include the Aurora Hills Community Center, Virginia Highlands Park and a portion of the RiverHouse apartment complex. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Heather Mongilio — September 25, 2015 at 10:30 am 351 0

Fire Station 8 (Courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department)

Residents against the relocation of Fire Station 8 have won a small victory.

The County Board on Thursday accepted the county manager’s recommendation to create a community task force to examine possible locations for the new Fire Station 8, which includes the site it currently sits on.

“This issue has been contentious, because the parameters for the discussion to date have not accommodated the desires of the community,” said Acting County Manager Mark Schwartz in his recommendation. “The choice will be a difficult one for the Board to make, because it may mean spending more on the fire station than was anticipated at the expense of other important projects.”

The County Board originally tasked county staff with finding a site for a new Fire Station 8 that would meet size, budgetary and response time restrictions. By relocating the fire station, the county hopes to reduce response times in North Arlington to four to six minutes.

Neighbors have repeatedly argued against capping the budget for the fire station at $12 million, as it limits the possible locations to one — the salt dome at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive. Many of the residents attending community meetings on the fire station’s relocation have asked for it to stay on its current site — which county staff say would require pricy upgrades.

The County Board will hold a work session to discuss all the current data on the possible fire station locations and create a focused charge for a task force, including what should and should not be discussed.

Schwartz has recommend that a broad group of community members be appointed, including members of civic associations and other groups that represent the entire community.

In his recommendation to the Board, Schwartz asked that the task force report back in March, allowing additional funding to be included in the Capital Improvement Plan proposal.

Neighbors had repeatedly asked for a task force on Fire Station 8’s location, but their request was met with opposition from Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten, who said she could not see the purpose of a task force, she said at a Sept. 17 meeting.

“If I’m going to be honest, I don’t see what the task force would do, but I am open if someone can articulate with some specificity what a task force would do,” Mitten said earlier this month.

Many members of the community have also sent in letters to Schwartz and the County Board requesting a task force, including the presidents of the Langston and Old Dominion Civic Associations, Schwartz said.

“We must strike out on a new process that rebuilds the community’s trust while respecting the need to provide fire/EMS service at the most equitable levels possible throughout the County and recognizing the very real limitations on the supply of County land for support uses and the limitations and pressures on the county budget,” Schwartz said.

by ARLnow.com — September 25, 2015 at 9:15 am 1,081 0

Deer near Donaldson Run (Flickr pool photo by Eric)

Board Approves Hospital Land Swap Option — The Arlington County Board has taken a first step to completing a deal to swap land with Virginia Hospital Center. The Board unanimously approved a non-binding Letter of Intent giving the hospital an option to purchase five acres of county-owned property adjacent to it. [Arlington County]

Apple iPhone Launch Day — A man has been camped out in front of the Clarendon Apple Store since Wednesday, in anticipation of today’s launch of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. The man, whose name is Joe, said it was his fourth year camping out for a new iPhone. [WJLA]

New Play Area Coming to Butler Holmes Park — Butler Holmes Park, which is tucked into a little corner of the Penrose neighborhood near Route 50, is getting a new, $414,000 pre-school play area, to complement the park’s existing playground and rain garden. “Besides whimsical tot lot features like a basket swing, see-saw and fairy tale structure, the project also includes safe play surfaces, a new park staircase and walkway, picnic tables and grills and signage,” said a press release. [Arlington County]

NSF HQ Purchased — An Atlanta-based real estate investment fund has purchased Stafford Place I, the Ballston office building that’s currently headquarters to the National Science Foundation. NSF will be moving out in 2017 and the buyer plans to “aggressively” market the property, which it purchased for $210 million. [Bisnow]

County Board Approves House Purchase — Arlington County will purchase a house at 2827 N. Harrison Street for $728,000, with the intention of knocking it down and using the property to enlarge Chestnut Hills Park. “This is another example of how the County is looking for every opportunity to add to our parks and open space,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

by ARLnow.com — September 22, 2015 at 10:10 pm 1,277 0

The Arlington County Board on Monday unanimously approved a redevelopment plan for the Pentagon Centre shopping center in Pentagon City.

Developer Kimco’s initial plans for the 17-acre site that includes the Costco, Best Buy and Nordstrom Rack in Pentagon City were approved in 2008, but those called for constructing the six-structure complex’s office buildings first. As approved, the amended plan will result in the construction of 693 residential units in two buildings during the project’s first phase.

Phases II and III of the redevelopment — which are 20-35 years away — will see the demolition of the main mall building and the Costco, replacing it with three office buildings, a hotel and a three-acre park.

A 9,000 square foot open space will be built in Phase I. Kimco also agreed to provide space for a transit commuter store, to place solar panels on the roof of a planned parking garage and to provide at least 11 units of on-site affordable housing.

In all, the project includes 1.9 million square feet of mixed-use development, including 200 hotel rooms, 705,700 square feet of office space and 346,000 square feet of retail space.

Note: Images above are preliminary renderings and might not reflect the final project as approved.

by Eleanor Greene — September 22, 2015 at 3:45 pm 942 0

Abingdon Elementary School renovation renderingAbingdon Elementary School in Fairlington will be undergoing a renovation and adding a 30,000 square-foot expansion, after receiving unanimous County Board approval for a use permit on Monday.

The addition includes 12 classrooms, as well as a new gymnasium, entrance plaza and outdoor instructional area. With this, the total building capacity will be brought from 589 to 725 students. The school’s enrollment is currently 630 students, with some of the excess student population served by four classroom trailers, according to a press release.

There will be a new bus loop and changes to the site’s existing parking configuration. The Board approved also approved a use permit that will allow school staff to park at the nearby Farlington Villages Community Center.

The approved plan includes extensive stormwater runoff management, which is aimed to reduce impact on the school’s neighbors. The existing building requires major building system upgrades, as well, including an updated HVAC system, electrical and plumbing improvements and new interior furnishings.

“This expansion breathes new life into an elementary school that opened its doors in Fairlington in 1950,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Back then, Abingdon helped relieve overcrowding at Fairlington Elementary. Now, so many decades later, we are partnering with Arlington Public Schools to expand Abingdon to once again serve burgeoning enrollment in this part of the County. There has been robust community conversation about this latest expansion of Abingdon. When completed in 2017, it will serve the community well for years to come.”

The school’s expansion comes as part of the School Board’s FY2015-FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan, which was adopted in 2014. The plan includes funding for over 1,000 elementary school seats, including the 136 seats that will be added at Abingdon, as well as others at McKinley Elementary School, and a new elementary school to be determined in South Arlington by FY 2019, in order to accommodate increased enrollment.

Abingdon Elementary was completed in 1950 and expanded in 1964, 1970 and 1990. The public review for the addition has taken place over the last 11 months, and included review by the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC), Environmental and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Transportation Commission, and Planning Commission.

Not all neighbors support the plan, however. Some have expressed concerns about the loss of trees and potential for noisy construction traffic as a result of the project.

Arlington’s PreK-12 student population has risen by more than 3,000 since the start of school in 2013. At the beginning of this school year, APS counted 25,307 enrolled students.

by ARLnow.com — September 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm 661 0

A plan to significantly transform the Courthouse neighborhood by guiding new development, turning the county’s large surface parking lot into a public square and park, and improving Metro access and pedestrian facilities, has gotten the green light.

The Arlington County Board on Monday unanimously approved what it’s hailing as a “visionary” new Courthouse Sector Plan.

“This plan pulls together some of our most successful policies to create a 21st century civic heart for Arlington,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “It calls for undergrounding Courthouse Square parking to create vibrant open space, improving transit connectivity by adding a new Metro entrance on the square, and improving sustainability through district energy and stormwater management.

“The new Courthouse Square will welcome all Arlingtonians to a new, transparent County administration building, but will also preserve a couple of key historic facades and explore additional cultural amenities in the future,” Hynes added.

A county press release highlighted ten “big ideas” included in the plan:

  1. 21st Century Civic Square – the top priority replaces an existing surface parking lot to create the new Courthouse Square, a network of open spaces that can support a wide variety of existing and future programs and events. A new parking garage, below the square, will accommodate parking needs.

  2. Central Metro access – a new, centrally-located Metro access point will provide a welcoming entrance and serve as a highly visible landmark for visitors.

  3. Shared streets – diverse, walkable streetscapes will surround the square and help connect open spaces to the buildings and pedestrian activities in the immediate area. 15th Street North and 14th Street North are envisioned as curbless, shared streets that are uniquely designed to extend the usefulness of the square, accommodate vehicles and transit, while providing priority to pedestrians and promoting safety.

  4. Courthouse Square promenade – a key pedestrian connection, between Wilson Boulevard and 14th Street North, will be a vibrant promenade that links the square to activities, Metro, open spaces, County facilities, local businesses and surrounding neighborhoods.

  5. Symbolic civic building on South Square – a focal-point building will introduce County, civic, cultural and/or market uses in this prominent location. The future facility should be devoted to highly-accessible community functions or integrated with other compatible civic and cultural activities.

  6. Verizon Plaza redevelopment – the existing Verizon Plaza has seen little use in the last several years due to its design, shadows and location. The plan realizes the site as a new development opportunity that will contribute to and further the plan’s goals.

  7. County administration building – a key charge for the study was to examine the future location and building massing for a County administration building. The prominent location, adjacent to the promenade and 14th Street North, is on axis with the Judicial Center and provides entrances located on the square.

  8. Enhanced pedestrian connection at North Veitch Street and 14th Street North – an improved connection from the south will ease and enrich the pedestrian experience in an area with topographical and visual barriers, and pedestrian conflicts with parking and loading access points.

  9. Cultural and civic facilities – cultural and civic facilities have the ability to enliven and enrich the Courthouse Square experience and create a multi-purpose regional destination. A number of locations could accommodate cultural uses ranging from a museum to a performing arts venue. Through the civic engagement process, the community shared a number of potential uses that are included in the document.

  10. Sustainability – creative and responsible sustainability solutions are integrated with recommendations throughout the plan.

The sector plan also includes language that supports maintaining affordable housing in the neighborhood, which it described as a “mixed-use, mixed income, premier location.”

The community process for the plan began in 2013. While some elements of the plan could be implemented in the next few years, many of the big goals are expected to take at least five years, if not a decade or more, to bring to reality.

by Eleanor Greene — September 22, 2015 at 10:35 am 0

African American GuideWork has begun on a second edition of a booklet that once gave insight to the African American history of Arlington.

The 20-page booklet, “African American History in Arlington, Virginia: A Guide to the Historic Sites of a Long and Proud Heritage,” was first published in 2001. It was a joint project between the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service, the Chamber of Commerce and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.

The funding for the booklet comes from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, in the form of a $3,000 grant that was accepted by the County Board.

Print copies of the guide ran out several years ago, but the booklet is still available online in a PDF.

According to a press release, the booklet was popular among Arlington residents and visitors who wanted to explore memorials such as Arlington House, the historic neighborhoods of Nauck, Hall’s Hill and Butler Holmes and various celebrated churches and historical homes.

Cynthia Liccese-Torres, Arlington County historic preservation planner, said that her office has found “quite a bit of new additional research” that will enhance the guide.

The still-operating Green Valley Pharmacy in Nauck will be featured in the new edition. It was opened in 1952 and served African Americans who were refused service in Arlington’s segregated drug stores.

Also included will be dozens of graves previously considered “lost” that have been identified in the cemetery at Calloway United Methodist Church.

Liccese-Torres estimates that the guide will be completed and ready for distribution in spring 2016.

by Eleanor Greene — September 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm 767 0

Joan HorwittThe two and a half acre of land where the Reevesland farmhouse sits was divided into two parcels — one which will contain the farmhouse and one that will become a public park.

The County Board’s decision allows the county to preserve the view of the farmhouse while still being able to sell it to a private party, Chair Mary Hynes said. The county also approved a permit to make the farmhouse a “unified residential development,” which makes it easier to sell, possibly as a single-family home.

Under the decision, the county manager cannot divide the land until directed by the Board, which extends the time for the county to hear proposals and decide what exactly to do with the farmhouse. The entire two and a half acre property will remain a local historic district, preventing major changes.

“The creation of a separate lot that includes the farmhouse would enable the County to market the house for sale to a private buyer willing to restore and maintain it,’ the county said in a press release. “The newly created lot is meant to give a potential owner privacy and the flexibility to expand the house with oversight by the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board.”

Board member Walter Tejada was the only vote against the division of the property. He also voted against the sale of the Reevesland farmhouse in May.

Tejada made a motion to include a direction to the county manager that the land could not be divided until a path to the “historic milk shed,” which would sit on the piece of land made into a park, was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. County staff said it might not be possible to have an ADA compliant path within the three years, and the motion failed.

The Board voted to sell the Reevesland farmhouse property after deciding it could not put up the $2-2.5 million it would cost to renovate the building for public use. In order to keep the building as county property, Arlington would have to rebuild parts of the farmhouse to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and modern safety codes, including strengthening the floors and updating the buildings utilities, Board Chair Mary Hynes said at a June board meeting.

Board member Jay Fisette voted against selling the parcel in May, saying he wanted more time to find a solution for the farmhouse.

“I will say that was primarily because I wanted more time to explore a nonprofit partnership that would allow continued public use. I have always been attracted to that idea and continue to be at that time,” Fisette said. “The proposal that we’re about to do today allows for that additional time, in fact, by not recording this subdivision plat until a later date.”

Separating the farmhouse and potentially allowing it to become a private residence allows the County Board to have a fall back plan, Hynes said.

“Here is this really unique [farmhouse], and we need to find a way to preserve that,” she said. “The view shed, the experience of seeing this farmhouse on the hill, to me, is the most important thing.”

Several citizens and neighbors spoke about their disapproval of the Board’s previous vote to sell the historic property, during the public comment portion of the Board meeting. They protested that the decision was too quickly made, and that before the land can be subdivided, the Board should return to that issue.  


by ARLnow.com — September 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm 612 0

Speaker at County Board meeting on affordable housing plan(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Following nearly five hours of discussion and heartfelt testimony, the Arlington County Board on Saturday approved an ambitious plan to replace rapidly disappearing market rate affordable housing in the county with more subsidized, committed affordable units.

Affordable housing supporters showed up in force to the meeting, well outnumbering critics who questioned the use of taxpayer funds to house residents who could otherwise not afford to live in a desirable, increasingly affluent inner suburb like Arlington.

Young parents, immigrants, teachers, seniors, businesspeople and clergy members, among others, spoke passionately in support of the plan, which calls for the creation of 15,800 new committed affordable housing units over the next 25 years.

“My parents always say that they know that in the future we will do a lot more than they have… and I believe that,” said one speaker, an Arlington Public Schools graduate and current Marymount University student who grew up in affordable housing. “I want our future generations to have better access to economic mobility, and in order for them to excel and become successful professionals, they need a stable home and a world-class education just like the one I know I am blessed to have received from APS and affordable housing.”

The Affordable Housing Master Plan approved by the Board was the culmination of three years of study and community engagement. Board members and community members spoke of the “marathon” process that led to the plan’s passage. Some spoke of continuing “the grand legacy” of former County Board members and local legislators who were instrumental in the county’s early support of affordable housing.

The plan provides a framework and goals for affordable housing in Arlington, but stops short of funding or planning individual housing developments. Under the plan, the County will try to dramatically increase the supply of housing that’s affordable primarily to those making less than 60 percent of the area median income.

“Between 2000 and 2013, the number of units affordable to low-income individuals and families in Arlington decreased from approximately 23,000 to 10,000,” the county noted in a press release. “Most of the 13,500 rental housing units were ‘lost’ to rising rents and redevelopment activity. The County’s current inventory of 7,000 Committed Affordable Units (CAFs) — units that are contractually obligated to remain affordable for decades — has only partially alleviated the loss of market-rate affordable units (MARKs).”

“The plan’s rental supply goal targets 22,800 affordable units by 2040 — a return to the number of affordable units that were available in 2000.”

County Board meeting on affordable housing planCounty Board Chair Mary Hynes said that affordable housing is integral to keeping Arlington an inclusive and diverse community.

“This affordable housing plan continues our long tradition of providing housing so that individuals of all ages, races and incomes can come together to make a great community we can all call home,” Hynes said in a statement. “In the end we — and the generations that follow us — will all benefit from the great thinking that went into this plan.”

Among the personal affordable housing stories the Board heard was one from Claudia Delgadillo, an APS teacher and parent and a representative of the newly-formed group Mi Voz Cuenta — “My Voice Counts.” Delgadillo was once a recipient of free and reduced launch at school, but said she worked to put herself through Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.

Delgadillo said the hard-working immigrant community along Columbia Pike — those who are relying on Arlington Public Schools to educate their children so they can achieve a better life — deserved to have their voices heard, since they were among the most vulnerable to getting priced out of Arlington.

“We are the residents who are most actively feeling the housing crisis,” she said. “You think about us as statistics and have good intentions. We build your houses, we teach and take care of your children, we make your pupusas — don’t push us out, don’t speak for us.”

Also speaking in support of the plan was Katherine Novello, a founding member of the group Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development. Mi Voz Cuenta was formed partially in response to CARD, which pushed back against what it saw as an increasing concentration of affordable housing in South Arlington. Novello said the group was satisfied with changes to the plan intended to better distribute affordable housing throughout the County.

The plan “better reflects the vision of Arlington as a truly diverse and inclusive community,” said Novello. “I feel fortunate to live in a place where all voices count.”


by ARLnow.com — September 21, 2015 at 10:10 am 1,736 0

Foggy view of D.C., the Capitol and the Memorial Bridge from Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Arlington Woman Sues Restaurant — Laura Donahue, a 36-year-old Arlington resident, is suing the new D.C. restaurant Fig & Olive, saying she became ill with salmonella after eating there.The restaurant was shut down by the health department for several days after numerous reports of diners afflicted with salmonella. [Washington Post]

County Board Approves Street Projects — At its meeting on Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved $2.9 million in neighborhood street improvement projects. The projects, in Ashton Heights, Lyon Village, Arlington Ridge and Leeway, will be paid for with neighborhood conservation bond funds. [Arlington County]

Refinancing to Save County Millions — Arlington County expects to save $2.2 million over 14 years via a refinancing of wastewater and water system bonds that was approved unanimously by the County Board on Saturday. [Arlington County]

Water Main Rehab Contract Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.4 million contract to rehabilitate some of the county’s aging water mains. Some of the mains set for a cleaning and a cement mortar lining are more than 60 years old. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Heather Mongilio — September 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm 826 0

The last planned community meeting on the topic of Fire Station 8’s potential relocation turned heated quickly as residents strongly objected to the county staff’s recommendation to move the fire station to what’s now a salt dome at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive.

The county plans to replace the aging fire station with a larger, “state of the art facility,” which requires the station to be relocated to a larger piece of land or for the current building to be torn down and rebuilt. For the most part, residents at the meetings have objected to any relocation of the fire station, citing the station’s history and importance to the surrounding community, among other issues.

“I have been at these meetings and at every one of them, one or two or five people have suggested either a newer cooperative station or a new station for emergency medical services in the northern part of the county and leaving Fire Station 8 renovated and modernized where it is,” one neighbor said. “And yet immediately that suggestion is dismissed and does not appear on any of these studies that you present. It doesn’t look like you have taken back suggestions in any form for your consideration.”

County staff are planning to recommend the salt dome at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive as the location of the new Fire Station 8 to the county manager. The county manager will then draft a recommendation that will be made to the County Board.

The site at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street N. is only one of the possible 19 locations that fit the parameters set by the County Board. Under these guidelines, the new location had to improve response times in North Arlington, have at least an acre and a half of land, be county owned or have a willing seller, have access to an arterial road and not exist in a resource protected area. The total cost of acquiring the land and building the new four-bay station also had to be $12 million or less, according to Deputy County Manger Carol Mitten.

Throughout the process, the largest concern has been improving response times to homes in North Arlington, said Deputy County Manager James Schwartz, who previously served as the fire chief.

If the fire station is relocated a minute north to 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, 3,000 more homes will be able to have a four to six minute response time from the fire department, police and emergency medical services, he said.

In most of the county, emergency services are able to get to people within four to six minutes, except in the far northern most part of Arlington, where times can be eight or 10 minutes, he said.

“A person that’s in cardiac arrest must receive basic life support, that’s CPR, in four to six minutes or there’s irreversible brain damage,” he said.


by Heather Mongilio — September 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm 2,060 0

A member of Mi Voz Cuenta at county government offices (Courtesy of Mi Voz Cuenta)

(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A new group made up of South Arlington residents and teachers are asking the County Board to approve the Affordable Housing Master Plan at its meeting this Saturday, Sept. 19.

The plan calls for an additional 15,800 affordable housing units to be built by 2040, to bring the county’s percentage of affordable housing to 17.7 percent. The plan has caused a divide in South Arlington, with the new group, Mi Voz Cuenta asking for the County Board to approve the plan, while the group Coalition to Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD) is continuing to ask the Board to ensure that affordable units will be spread throughout the county instead of clustering them around Columbia Pike.

Mi Voz Cuenta, which translates to My Voice Counts, is composed of South Arlington residents, many of whom are parents of children attending Arlington Public Schools, including Randolph, Barcroft, Campbell and Claremont Elementary Schools.

“For many of us, English is not our first language, and many of us were not born here. Nevertheless, we have made Arlington our home, and it has been a community which we have contributed to and enriched economically, culturally, and socially,” the group said in a letter to the County Board, which had more than 440 signatures.

Mi Voz Cuenta says it organized in response to another South Arlington group that has asked for affordable housing to be spread throughout the county and has connected low-income housing to poor school performances, an apparent reference to CARD.

“We know of communications you have received from our neighborhoods and know that they do not speak for us,” members of Mi Voz Cuenta said. “Our voices and our perspectives have not been adequately or correctly represented in these communications. In fact, we feel discriminated against. Most of us were not invited or ever made aware of the forums from which official messages claiming to represent our neighborhoods were sent. We would have liked to be included in these conversations since we are also part of the neighborhood.”

Mi Voz Cuenta is advocating for affordable housing in the neighborhoods near Columbia Pike, adding that the mixed-income neighborhoods have attracted diversity, and with it vibrancy, to the area, the group said. The group is also open to affordable housing throughout the county, said group spokeswoman Jessica Sarriot.


by ARLnow.com — September 15, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,616 0

Flag over I-395

Arlington Generates $3 Billion in Travel Spending — Arlington County generated $3 billion in tourism spending in 2014, a 5 percent increase over 2013, according to data released Monday. Tourism supports almost 25,000 jobs in Arlington and generated $80 million in local tax revenue. Arlington accounted for about an eighth of Virginia’s $22.4 billion in tourism spending. “These record numbers are a testament to the excellent quality and value of Arlington’s travel and tourism offerings, and the strong collaboration between the County and local businesses in promoting our destination both domestically and internationally,” said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. [Arlington County]

Tejada: Crazy Transportation Ideas Better Than No Ideas — Retiring Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada says monorail-like pod transit on Columbia Pike may seem like a crazy idea, but at least it’s an idea. “The JPods or gondolas – some folks might chuckle, but at least the residents are coming up with options, and those who oppose things are not,” he said in an interview. [WTOP]

Moran: Federal Shutdown Coming — Former Democratic congressman Jim Moran, who represented Arlington in Virginia’s Eighth District, says he believes a federal government shutdown is coming because of a budget impasse between Republicans and Democrats. “We have a dysfunctional legislative branch,” said the 12-term congressman, who took a job as a legislative advisor for a D.C. law firm after leaving office. [WTOP]

Future I-66 Tolls May Be Steep — A plan to toll vehicles with fewer than three occupants on I-66 may cost commuters up to $16 round trip just for travel between D.C. and the Capital Beltway. [Washington Post]

County to Buy, Tear Down Home for Park — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve the purchase of a home at 2827 N. Harrison Street. The county plans to raze the home and incorporate the 9,632 square foot site into adjacent Chestnut Hills Park. The total cost will be nearly $800,000 and will come from the county’s parkland acquisition fund. [InsideNova]


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