Arlington, VA

Arlington residents were lined up down the block in Courthouse this morning, on the first day of early voting in Virginia.

The county’s elections office said on Twitter that 200 people cast ballots in the first hour this morning, after voting opened at 8 a.m.

Any registered voter who wants to vote early can do so through Oct. 31, at designated early voting locations. Currently, voting is taking place at the former Wells Fargo bank (2200 Clarendon Blvd) near county government headquarters in Courthouse. Four community centers will also open for early voting on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Voters who don’t want to show up to the polls in person, for fear of COVID-19 or otherwise, can request mail-in ballots through Oct. 23. The first of the ballots are being sent out today. As of early August, about 17,000 Arlingtonians — 10% of active voters — had requested mail-in ballots, according to the elections office.

More information on how to vote in the upcoming general election is available on Arlington County’s 2020 Voter Guide website.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3

More views of the line via social media:

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) All Metro service between Foggy Bottom and Clarendon has been suspended due to smoke in a Metro tunnel near the Courthouse station.

A large fire department response is on scene in Courthouse, investigating the issue. Riders are being evacuated from the Courthouse station, where a light haze was reported in the platform area.

Firefighters are looking into a possible electrical issue between the Rosslyn and Courthouse stations.

Simultaneously, a possible communications problem in the tunnels has been reported. Firefighters and the fire liaison at Metro’s rail control center are currently communicating on Arlington’s fire department response radio channel, however.

As of 11:30 a.m., about 45 minutes after the first dispatch, firefighters and Metro emergency response personnel were still on scene, trying to determine what, if anything, is on fire. An empty train is being brought in to help with the investigation. Around 12:45 p.m., firefighters were told that the issue is believed to be a burning electrical insulator.

As of 2 p.m., service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines had been restored, according to Metro.

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A prime triangle of land in Courthouse is expected to remain largely vacant through next year.

The property at the corner of Wilson Blvd. and N. Courthouse Road once housed a Wendy’s. The fast food restaurant was torn down in 2016, in anticipation of the construction of a 12-story office building, which was approved the year before. More than four years after the demolition, however, there’s still no office building.

Instead, the lot has been used as a construction staging site over the past year, and this weekend the Arlington County Board is expected to approve the renewal of the construction staging use permit.

In a report to the Board, county staff say the lot is still needed for the construction of a new condo building at 2000 Clarendon Blvd, after the project was delayed by the pandemic.

“Although the approved use was initially anticipated to last no longer than one (1) year, the applicant has requested to extend the use for additional time due to delays in construction related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the staff report says. “At the current time, the applicant is utilizing this site primarily for contractor parking.”

If approved, the use permit for the staging site would be valid for another year before the next County Board review. The 2000 Clarendon Blvd project is expected to wrap up in 2021.

Also in the report, county staff note that some nearby residents have complained about trash in and around the former Wendy’s site. That is being addressed, the report says.

This is a one (1) year review of a use permit associated with a site plan for a temporary off-site contractor’s storage and staging area, located at 2026 and 2038 Wilson Blvd. Radnor/Fort-Myer Heights Civic Association, the host civic association expressed concerns regarding maintenance of the sidewalk and trash pick-up around the site. Staff has relayed these comments to the applicant who acknowledged that he will remind contractors parking at this location to not litter within the public right-of-way.

In April, the County Board extended the approved site plan for the office building at the Wendy’s site for another three years, through July 1, 2023.

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After nearly 40 years, Joe Javidara said the future of his soccer-themed bar Summers Restaurant in Courthouse (1520 N. Courthouse Road) hinges on a permit he said is being processed through Arlington County government.

The restaurant announced on Monday that it was temporarily closed until it could get a permit for outdoor seating.

Like many local restaurant owners with insufficient indoor seating to allow for social distancing, Javidara said getting one of the county’s temporary outdoor seating requests is crucial to ensuring that customers feel safe returning to local eateries.

Jessica Margarit, spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, said the county has received 110 applications for Temporary Outdoor Seating Area permits. Of those, 75 have been approved. Four were denied while 13 remain under review. The other 17 are listed as inactive — meaning they have not followed up with staff on requests for additional information — and one was withdrawn.

Asked about it by ARLnow, Margarit said the county had not received a new TOSA application from Summers yet.

Dear Summers friends,We will TEMPORARILY CLOSE until we get an outdoor seating permit from the Arlington, County. …

Posted by Summers Restaurant & Sports Bar on Monday, August 31, 2020

It’s a process the county has worked to make easier over the last few months, but Javidara faces a critical snag: his sidewalk is too narrow. An earlier application in June was denied because staff found that putting the restaurant space on the sidewalk would not allow enough space for pedestrians to safely maneuver.

“This time, I went to county and told them we’re going to close, we’ve closed already,” Javidara said. “We got the application. Hopefully we’ll see. They’re going to send the engineer to check it out… Without the outside seating we can’t pay the rent.”

Javidara’s solution had been to utilize the on-street parking area, removing four parking spaces to make way for tables with a cleared space on the sidewalk between the seating and the restaurant for pedestrians to pass through. It’s a move that’s been implemented in places like Clarendon and Shirlington, and in other jurisdictions like Alexandria, to the benefit of local restaurants.

He tried that approach in June, arguing that no one was coming to work in the nearby buildings anyway, but was rejected.

“We tried to open anyway, but we’re losing a lot of money and paying $20,000 in rent,” Javidara said. “And there’s no sports, so it feels like everything is against us.”

It isn’t the first time Summers Restaurant has been in dire straits. In 2014, Javidara expressed similar concerns about increasing rent possibly driving the restaurant out of business.

Now, he’s been told the application could be processed sometime in the next two or three weeks. Margarit said the average application reviews for TOSA permits take 5-10 days, sometimes less.

“They’re slow these days,” Javidara said. “By the time we get it, it could maybe be the end of October. There might still be a few weeks of nice weather. We’ve been here for 37 or 38 years, but if this doesn’t go through we’re going to go.”

Regardless, the building Summers calls home may not be long for this world: the entire block is set for redevelopment.

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Morning Notes

Israeli Company Opening Arlington HQ — “An Israeli renewable energy company now plans to open its first-ever U.S. headquarters in Arlington County. Energix Renewable Energies Ltd. announced Thursday that it will set up shop at 2311 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said state officials managed to win the new headquarters over pitches from North and South Carolina.” [Washington Business Journal]

Official’s Death Raises Questions — “One of the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence officials died by suicide at his home in the Washington, D.C., area in June… Ashley Savage, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Police Department, said the department’s investigation of the Schinella case remains open. She said the Arlington police notified the CIA about Schinella’s death, and that the Arlington police provided assistance to the CIA.” [The Intercept]

W&OD Project in Falls Church Underway — “In a preview of what could be to come in Arlington, regional officials on Aug. 26 broke ground for a 1.5-mile upgrade to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Regional Trail in the city of Falls Church. The effort, expected to be completed next summer, represents “the most visionary development on the W&OD in a generation.” [InsideNova, WTOP]

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Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar and Eatery has reopened after its storefront was remodeled with COVID-19 precautions in mind.

During the restaurant’s nearly five month closure, its kitchen was remodeled to allow for physical distancing between employees and to minimize the amount of germs in the air. With the changes in place, Bayou opened its doors on Monday for takeout and patio dining.

Shelves now hang 10 feet above the floors, a new ventilation system whirs between the walls and an industrial fan maintains air flow throughout the space. A touch-free faucet was also added to the store’s bathroom, and a hands-free mechanism was installed to open its door.

The restaurant’s landlord provided funding in recent lease negotiations to make the remodel possible. Owner and chef David Guas said these changes were a must for Bayou Bakery to operate amid the pandemic.

“I feel it would have been negligent to not have put these measures into place before reopening our doors,” Guas said. “These newly adopted practices are going to be necessary moving forward — our industry now carries a very important responsibility when it comes to safety.”

Bayou Bakery originally closed its in-person dining on March 16, following a statewide order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. According to Guas, sales dropped by 70% between March 16-31 and the restaurant cut its 2o person staff to 10.

While Bayou Bakery still offered takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery during this time, Guas said staying open became unsustainable. On April 1, the restaurant fully closed.

Despite not serving customers, Guas used his facilities to support Chefs Feeding Families. He co-founded the project, which provides free grab-and-go meals to local school children and their families impacted by the pandemic, with McLean-based group Real Food for Kids in March as schools began to close.

“Key Elementary Schools is near my restaurant — there were about 300 kids on the meal plan when the school shut down,” Guas said. “I looked at my employees in the kitchen and thought of their children who went to that school. I asked myself how would they and so many others be fed? How many more would be affected?”

Guas said the project allowed him to keep four employees working, and Bayou Bakery has served about 400-500 meals a day to families impacted by school closures and job losses.

Since March 17, six other restaurants including Silver Diner, Rasa Grill and Pizzeria Paradiso have joined the effort. According to Bayou Bakery, Chefs Feeding Families has served over 90,000 meals at its 21 D.C. region pickup locations as of August 25.

All meals are vegetarian and no ID or proof of need is required to pick one up.

“It was important to us that we were presenting healthy and inclusive options that would appeal to as many people as possible,” Guas said. “I have faith in people and those who came out of their way to get a meal, so the honor system is the way we approached [giving out meals]. By not requiring ID, it opened the doors for us to reach so many more families in need.”

Now, while continuing to support Chefs Feeding Families, Bayou Bakery is open for “Grab N’ Geaux” takeout, delivery and socially distant dining on its patio. Meals like buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and chicken and smoked gumbo are available on an abbreviated menu.

Photos courtesy Bayou Bakery

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) There will be five places around the county at which to cast early votes prior to the November election, Arlington officials announced last night.

That’s an increase from three satellite voting locations in past presidential election years. The County Board approved the five locations at a meeting last night, citing “unprecedented demand for early voting during the COVID-19 pandemic” and concerns about the reliability of mail-in ballots.

Between 20,000 and 27,500 Arlingtonians cast early ballots in presidential elections since 2008, according to a presentation by Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer. That number is expected to go up this year.

“The Electoral Board proposes to add 5 voting satellite offices to account for dramatic increases in early voting during Presidential Election years, to help reduce wait times, and increase capacity for social distancing,” said Reinemeyer’s presentation to the County Board.

The two new early voting centers being added are the Aurora Hills Senior Center, in the Crystal City and Pentagon City area, and the Langston Brown Community Center in Hall’s Hill, along Lee Highway.

Reinemeyer said the latter will serve western portions of the county, though she noted in the presentation that “precincts on the west end of the County use early voting a lower rates than other precincts in the County.” At least one County Board watcher noted a geographic gap in the early voting center map.

Also new this year: the county is temporarily leasing a ground floor space at 2200 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse to use for early voting, in lieu of the county government headquarters building next door. The vacant former Wells Fargo bank space will be modified to accommodate socially-distanced early voting; a line will snake around outside the center, in the courtyard area.

Early voting is set to start in the new 2200 Clarendon Blvd space on Friday, September 18. The other locations are expected to open in October.

More from a county press release, below.

Read More

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Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) held a meeting Wednesday with local and national election-focused organizations at Arlington’s Office of Elections in Courthouse.

Warner discussed the threats he feels loom largest over November’s election, specifically stressing his concerns about recent changes made to the U.S. Postal Service.

He also heard from Arlington’s and Alexandria’s respective election directors as well as representatives of The Center for Election Innovation & Research, New Virginia Majority, the Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Vote and Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program.

For Warner, foreign interference, the election system’s integrity and the risk COVID-19 poses to voter safety are the primary dangers facing the November 3 election, in which he is running for reelection.

Attendees raised worries about a national lack of funds for recruiting and training additional poll workers for this election’s unique circumstances. Inadequate public knowledge about the possibility that results may come in well after election, as well as  timelines for requesting mail-in ballots, were also cited as a problem.

The Postal Service recommends voters request ballots no later than 15 days before an election, and then send in a completed ballot no later than 7 days before an election.

“We’ve got to make sure we educate our voters about all the different small nuances that are coming out of the state,” David Hollberg, the marketing manager of the U.S. Postal Service’s NOVA district, said.

According to Gretchen Reinemeyer, Arlington County’s Director of Elections, the county has already received 20,000 requests for mail ballots, a record-setting increase from past years.

Warner recently sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former logistics executive, asking him to reverse changes he has made to the U.S. Postal Service that critics say have unnecessarily slowed operations and could impact how many mail ballots are counted in the election.

DeJoy, who was appointed by President Trump after being a major campaign donor, reassigned around 24 top Postal Service officials this past Friday, further provoking allegations of purposeful inefficiency.

“It’s more than a little fishy when you do a late Friday night reorganization of the management of the post office 85 days before election,” Warner told ARLnow. “Mr. Trump continues to try to undermine people’s confidence in absentee voting.”

Throughout the meeting, an overarching priority was ensuring that American voters will feel the November election was done fairly and without exterior influences.

“The voters have always had confidence … that their voices were going to be reflected in those votes,” Warner said. “Nothing would do Russia’s job better than for that confidence to be undermined.” 

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Arlington is the No. 1 best city to live in the U.S., according to 2020 rankings from Niche.com, and two Arlington neighborhoods are No. 2 and No. 3 on the website’s new list of the Best Places to Live in America.

Arlington, which is technically a county, has topped the Niche “Best Cities to Live” list since 2016.

The site calculates the rankings “based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities.” Niche previously lauded Arlington for high-quality public schools, low crime rate, abundant nightlife options and walkability.

In its rankings this year, Niche cites the following recent review of Arlington from a current resident.

Arlington is a very clean and open-minded town with educated individuals and businesses that are dedicated to producing less waste. Many stores and retail centers are modern and well-kept. It is a family friendly area with great public schools. However, traffic is prevalent and real estate prices are through the roof. But, living a healthy lifestyle is easy in Arlington with many healthy food options and amazing trails all over.

Arlington neighborhoods also ranked remarkably well on Niche’s 2020 Best Places to Live lists for both the state and the country, thanks in large part due to highly-rated public schools and walkability.

The Bluemont neighborhood, west of Ballston, is the No. 2 best place in the nation, according to Niche. Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, near Rosslyn and Courthouse, is No. 3. Ballston/Virginia Square is No. 12 in the U.S. and Clarendon/Courthouse is No. 24.

Within Virginia, Arlington neighborhoods dominated the top 25: Bluemont (1), Radnor/Fort Myer Heights (2), Ballston/Virginia Square (3), Clarendon/Courthouse (4), Waycroft/Woodlawn (6), Colonial Village (11), North Rosslyn (12), Lyon Village (13), Cherrydale (14), Arlington Forest (15), Dominion Hills (16), Arlington Ridge (18), Claremont (20), Columbia Heights (21), Aurora Highlands (22), Alcova Heights (23), and Ashton Heights (25).

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Morning Notes

Civ Fed to Study County’s Form of Gov’t — “Herbert Hoover was residing – albeit somewhat tenuously – in the White House the last time Arlington had a major change in its governance structure. Nearly 90 years later, the Arlington County Civic Federation may get the ball rolling on bringing that structure into the 21st century.” [InsideNova]

Biden Signs Defaced, Stolen — “A big sign promoting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign in Arlington’s Aurora Highlands neighborhood was defaced with pro-President Trump graffiti sometime between Sunday evening and Monday morning,” reports Washingtonian. Separately, a recent Nextdoor post shows video of an older man stealing a Biden sign in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. [Washingtonian]

Alleged Courthouse Flasher Arrested — “The victim was walking in the area when she felt the suspect allegedly grab her arm from behind her. As she turned around, she observed the male naked. The suspect then fled on foot. Arriving officers, with the assistance of Metro Transit Police, located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]

ACPD Conducting Food Drive — Arlington County police “will be collecting donations at drive-thru donation stations on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.  at three locations: Westover Baptist Church – 1125 Patrick Henry Drive, Police Headquarters – 1425 N. Courthouse Road, Giant Food – 2901 S. Glebe Road.” [Arlington County]

Crystal City Concert Series Goes Virtual — “With the health and safety of our residents and visitors in mind, Fridays at the Fountain is switching to an all virtual format. Tune in every Friday evening at 7pm, beginning August 7th, for an hour of live music streamed right to your home.” [National Landing BID]

High School Sports UpdateUpdated at 8:15 a.m. — “The Virginia High School League’s Executive Committee voted 34-1 Monday to delay the start of the 2020-21 high school sports season by implementing a compressed high school sports scheduling plan that would run as of now from Dec. 28-June 26. The schedule would begin with the winter sports season, starting in late December, followed by the traditional fall sports season and ending with the spring sports season.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Break-ins at Eden Center “Multiple business were broken into at the Eden Center. Heavy police presence until further notice. Please avoid the area. No danger to public at this time. Any information to assist the investigation, please contact 703-241-5053. Thank you for your patience and understanding” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Hotel-to-Apartment Project on Hold — “A proposal to convert the Arlington Courts Suites extended-stay hotel in the Courthouse area to apartments is on hold, at least for now. The project had been slated for County Board consideration on July 18, but has been deferred until at least October at the request of the applicant, citing ‘economic concerns about the project due to the COVID-19 emergency.'” [InsideNova]

Controversy Sparks Idea for Fundraiser — A local man has raised more than $140,000 “after starting a GoFundMe page to buy Goya Foods products and donate them to local food pantries after critics called for a boycott over pro-Trump comments from Goya’s CEO. ‘People are seeing in the news a double standard for one political view,’ 27-year-old Casey Harper of Arlington, Va., told FOX Business.” [Fox Business, GoFundMe]

Jury Questionnaire Going Out Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court, which includes the City of Falls Church, will soon begin its annual juror qualification process.  Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City.  These questionnaires are used to qualify residents for jury duty which begins Jan. 1, 2021, and ends Dec. 31, 2021.” [Arlington County]

Job Losses Possible at DCA — Among the 36,000 United Airlines workers who may be furloughed starting in October, according to WARN Act notices, are 116 employees at Reagan National Airport. [Virginia Employment Commission]

Swearing In for New County Board Member — “Takis P. Karantonis, elected to the Arlington County Board in a special election on July 7, 2020, will be sworn in at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14 in a virtual ceremony. Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington Paul Ferguson will officiate.” [Arlington County]

Red Hook Lobster Pound Shuts Down — Long-time local food truck operator and concessionaire Red Hook Lobster Pound is selling its trucks and assets as the pandemic forces it out of business. This presumably means that there will be no Red Hook lobster restaurant near Clarendon, either. [Washingtonian]

ACPD Investigating Airbag Theft Along Lee Highway — “At approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 12, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 7:00 p.m. on July 11 and 7:30 a.m. on July 12, an unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows of approximately three vehicles and stole the airbags. There are no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Mike Cantwell

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