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Morning Notes

The Italian Store and Westover after sunset (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

House Fire Near Columbia Pike — From ACFD last night: “Units are on the scene of a working structure fire in the 3100 BLK of 15th St S. Avoid the area.” [Twitter]

Will ‘NaLa’ Catch On?  — “At first, it showed up on freebie water bottles. Then it made its way onto rainbow shirts for Pride Month. In June, it popped up on Instagram as a hashtag, and in July, it was suddenly plastered on the surfboard and silver Airstream set up in a grassy patch of Arlington, declaring to the commuters, dog walkers and joggers strutting by that their neighborhood had earned a new nickname: NaLa.” [Washington Post]

Will Home Prices Fall? — “The real-estate industry’s equivalent of the ‘f-word’ – ‘falling,’ as in ‘falling prices’ – is beginning to be used across the nation even by some who earlier felt that the homes market would withstand economic pressures without seeing declines in sales prices. But in the local area, one expert believes that localities remain largely insulated from the prospect of dropping prices over the near term.” [Sun Gazette]

Latin Masses Curtailed — “Thirteen parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, must stop offering Traditional Latin Masses come Sept. 8 under new rules issued Friday by Bishop Michael J. Burbidge to conform with Pope Francis’ liturgical directives. Under the rules, eight other parishes may continue to offer Masses in what is called the Extraordinary Form, but five of those may only do so in other locations besides their churches, including school buildings and a former church.” [Catholic News Agency]

Arlington Man Wins Jeopardy! — Luigi de Guzman, an attorney from Arlington, won Friday’s episode of TV quiz show Jeopardy! with a final score of $23,401. [J! Archive]

Summer School Success — “There were the inevitable glitches, but it appears Arlington Public Schools’ soon-to-wrap-up summer-school program was a relatively smooth endeavor. ‘We’re really excited about all of the great learning,’ Superintendent Francisco Durán said in an update to School Board members on the effort, which attracted 3,152 students, ‘the vast majority’ in person, Durán said.” [Sun Gazette]

Monday Was Dark Star Park Day — From the Rosslyn BID: “While the clouds parted a little later than 9:32AM, we were glad to watch this year’s Dark Star Park Day alignment with all of you!” [Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 89 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:12 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Arlington County Board has put a project to construct a segment of 12th Street S. on hold indefinitely in its Capital Improvement Plan guidance.

The segment between S. Monroe Street and S. Glebe Road, located near the post office in the Douglas Park neighborhood, is currently a paved sidepath. The path runs in the middle of two sections of 12th Street S., which is designated as one of the Columbia Pike Bike Boulevards, according to the project’s website.

The project to change the path into a two-lane street with curb and gutter was put on hold by the County Board after evaluating the “multiple additional improvements” needed to fulfil Vision Zero, a national initiative to eliminate all serious traffic accidents, and the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan, according to the County Board Guidance for CIP.

“This is a particularly challenging project initially identified as an opportunity to improve grid connectivity,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a Board meeting. “I think we have found that it has been very difficult to serve the needs and meet the needs of all users as envisioned in that project.”

Instead, the County Board decided to move the $2.7 million allocated to other “priority projects” within the Columbia Pike Bike Boulevard program, which is intended to provide cyclists with a continuous route parallel to Columbia Pike.

Since the shelving of the project, the county’s Department of Environmental Services is planning to “conduct a corridor analysis” to complete the bicycle route, DES spokesperson Erin Potter said.

The project on 12th Street S. prompted a significant amount of concern from residents, especially on the introduction of cars to what is currently a bike-and-pedestrian-only path. Many commenters wanted “the existing trail and sidewalk configuration to remain as is” with no cars allowed, according to a summary of public feedback done in the beginning of this year.

Moreover, residents who gave feedback were concerned about possible increase in cut-through traffic if a two-lane street were to be constructed, as well as the risk to children since the road segment was near a school bus stop, according to the summary.

This project originally aimed at connecting S. Lincoln Street, now a dead-end street in the middle of the block between Glebe and Monroe, to 12th Street S., as well as to fill the gap in the bike boulevard. Construction was originally supposed to begin in spring next year, according to documents for a public meeting.

Map showing the path between stretches of 12th Street S. (via Google Maps)

More on the decision, from the project web page:

Based on County Board Guidance on the FY 23-32 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), this project is being indefinitely deferred. Funding allocated to this project will be “redirected to support future priority projects within the Columbia Pike Bike Boulevard Program. Staff will conduct additional feasibility and scoping work that would focus on completing the Bike Boulevards throughout the Columbia Pike corridor and specifically addressing areas where gaps exist.”

The project may be revisited in the future, “triggered by changing conditions including development opportunities, multimodal corridor needs, and other County priorities.”

Map via Google Maps

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The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A progressive group says an Amazon- and county-funded plan to keep the Barcroft Apartments affordable will actually displace low-income residents.

The more than $300 million purchase of the 60-acre, 1,334-unit complex along Columbia Pike will take what are currently aging but affordable market-rate apartments and renovate or reconstruct them, while converting them to dedicated affordable units.

The hasty and hefty purchase happened, county officials said, in response to the possibility that the complex could be redeveloped without affordability protections. That is what happened to the nearby Columbia Gardens Apartments, which are being torn down to make way for townhouses.

But the group Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE), an offshoot of Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority, says the Barcroft Apartments plan is flawed and will actually displace some long-time residents. The rent they are currently paying, according to rates listed online, is actually lower than the dedicated affordable rates that the rents could eventually rise to.

ACE is holding a rally this afternoon at Doctor’s Run Park, across the street from the apartments in the Douglas Park neighborhood, to speak out against what it says is the “predicted displacement of Arlington tenants within next year in [the] highly diverse Barcroft Apartments.”

From a press release:

On May 12, 2022 at 4 p.m., Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE) organizers and tenants from Barcroft Apartments will hold a press conference and rally at Doctor’s Run Park, 1301 S. George Mason Drive. During the press conference, tenants will share their experiences trying to prepare for skyrocketing rental costs, and organizers will reveal the results of a recently completed survey conducted by organizers and Marymount University predicting tenant displacement of low-income residents.

Barcroft Apartments provides a home to one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods in the area, and was recently sold to new owners Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. The current agreement involving Arlington County, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partner, and Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund risks displacing long time tenants in the upcoming years because their rental rates will be increased by 3% every year up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) starting next year. A majority of the long-time tenants that were surveyed by ACE make below 60% AMI which also increased this year as well.

Tefera Negash, a five year tenant, said, “This was the last place in this area that was in our budget. This will bring too much inconvenience in our life on top of the economic difficulties we are experiencing recently.”

Nupur Chowdhury, community organizer for ACE said, “I’m a Bangladeshi-American living here in Arlington. My family and I have lived in Barcroft for 17 years. As someone who is living and active in this community, I am afraid that the scheduled rent increases year after year will make it too expensive for our diverse community to continue living here.”

Asked about the rally, Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said she and Jair Lynch, the developer that is buying the complex with the loans from Amazon and Arlington, have been in touch with ACE.

“No Barcroft residents are being displaced,” Venezia asserted.

She issued the following statement in response to inquiries from ARLnow.

The Jair Lynch team and I have been working one-on-one with ACE since early this year. Last week we spoke with them directly to talk about their survey, the results, and their concerns. Our conversations have been collegial and constructive. We continue to share that no Barcroft residents are being displaced. Starting in 2023, rents may increase a maximum of 3% annually, up to the 60% AMI rent limit. The County remains committed to working with residents who need financial assistance. Last Friday and again this Tuesday, I followed up with additional information for families facing financial hardship, including a handout in 11 different languages about existing County programs that they could share with any residents. We are working to connect struggling families with rental resources, such as housing grants, including the potential for an information event about County resources at the property. County staff continues to be available to ACE and all Barcroft residents and to provide information and resources as needed. The Arlington Department of Human Services team is also available to help Barcroft residents with assistance for food, rent, and other services, regardless of immigration status. Residents can call 703-228-1300.

A representative with Jair Lynch echoed Venezia in saying that no residents will be displaced.

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A man who worked as an assistant at Carlin Springs Elementary School is facing sex assault charges.

Police say Jonathan Zapata, a 30-year-old Arlington resident, sexually assaulted a female family member under the age of 18 over the course of two years from 2016-2018. He was arrested this morning in the Buckingham neighborhood and is facing two felony sex offense charges.

Arlington Public Schools has placed Zapata on administrative leave from his instructional assistant position, police said in a press release.

“The preliminary investigation has not uncovered evidence of inappropriate contact with children at the school,” the Arlington County Police Department said. “Anyone with information about Mr. Almanza Zapata that may be pertinent to this case and/or who has had past inappropriate encounters with him is asked to contact Detective S. Gomez at 703-228-4173 or [email protected]

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is investigating a suspect charged with sex offenses and is seeking additional information and possible victims. Jonathan Almanza Zapata, 30, of Arlington, VA, was arrested and charged with Forcible Sodomy and Aggravated Sexual Battery. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

At approximately 10:36 p.m. on September 26, police were dispatched to a residence in the Douglas Park neighborhood for the late report of a sexual assault. Upon arrival, officers met with the female juvenile victim who reported that the suspect allegedly inappropriately touched and sexually assaulted her during incidents believed to have occurred between September 2016 and June 2018. Following an investigation by the Special Victims Unit, warrants were obtained for the suspect and he was taken into custody without incident this morning in the 4300 block of N. Pershing Drive. The suspect is known to the victim and this is considered a domestic-related incident.

Arlington Public Schools has placed Mr. Almanza Zapata on administrative leave from his position as an instructional assistant at Carlin Springs Elementary School. The preliminary investigation has not uncovered evidence of inappropriate contact with children at the school. This remains an ongoing and active criminal investigation. Anyone with information about Mr. Almanza Zapata that may be pertinent to this case and/or who has had past inappropriate encounters with him is asked to contact Detective S. Gomez at 703-228-4173 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Two more overnight car break-in sprees have been reported, this time in the Courthouse and Douglas Park areas.

Following some 18 cars being broken into in the Arlington Forest neighborhood early Monday morning, a thief of thieves struck early Tuesday morning along several blocks in the Courthouse area, just blocks from police headquarters.

Police say nine vehicles “were found to have had their door handles removed and the air bags stolen.”

More from the Arlington County Police Department:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (SERIES), 2021-08030034/08030041/08030057, 1800 block of N. Scott Street/1200 block of N. Scott Street/1300 block of N. Scott Street/1200 block of N. Taft Street. At approximately 5:30 a.m. on August 3, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny from auto. The investigation revealed that in total, nine victim vehicles were found to have had their door handles removed and the air bags stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

On Monday morning, another series of thefts was reported along S. Four Mile Run Drive near the Dept. of Motor Vehicles office.

Three cars were broken into, including one from which a cell phone and credit cards were stolen. A Honda Civic was also stolen from the area.

From ACPD:

LARCENY FROM AUTO/GRAND LARCENY AUTO (SERIES), 2021-08030065, 4100 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 8:33 a.m. on August 3, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 11:00 p.m. on August 2 and 8:00 a.m. on August 3, the unknown suspect(s) entered into and rummaged through approximately three vehicles and stole a cellphone, wallet and credit cards from one victim vehicle. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that another victim vehicle was stolen from the area. The vehicle is described as a 2014 Honda Civic bearing VA license plate VXK8836. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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When the COVID-19 began to shut down the world, Arlington resident Allegra Jabo was one of many who spent their newfound time working on puzzles.

“When everything first shut down for the pandemic and we were all inside waiting for the few weeks to be over, we started working on the puzzle we had bought for our canceled beach trip,” said Jabo.

As time progressed, people began finishing their puzzles and were looking for new ones. Jabo was one of these people, despite being in a small group of enthusiasts who had been swapping puzzles — so she decided to go bigger.

Jabo owns a business called The Science Seed, which offers a program designed to introduce science to preschool and early elementary school children. Before the pandemic, she was using the entryway of her home as a swap spot for her business. When her business shut down, along with schools, Jabo decided to turn her entryway into a swap spot for puzzles.

She called it the Douglas Park Little Free Puzzle Library, similar to the Little Free Book Libraries seen around Arlington and the rest of the country.

“At first, I was worried about maintaining our puzzle supply as we became more popular, but with so many people having time on their hands to clean out their houses, we continue to receive lots of donations,” said Jabo. There are now over 300 puzzles at Jabo’s house — all donations from other residents — and donations are still being accepted.

“To donate, [people] can drop off in the drop-off corner of our entryway,” said Jabo. “If they know of any missing pieces, they can put a Post-It on the box to let me know so I can add that information to the library note taped to the box.”

As the pandemic wanes and more things reopen, Jabo’s business will need her entryway back so she’s been looking for a new place to move the puzzle library.

“I do not plan on simply abandoning the library,” said Jabo. “I am actively working on finding a permanent home for the library and hope to move it into a community center or library branch.”

She said the experience of running the puzzle library has been both rewarding and surprising.

“The library’s success has been a surprise, and the many notes of gratitude I get online and in Post-It form have been truly lovely to receive during this crazy year,” said Jabo. “A woman visiting the other day told me the library has been her favorite part of the pandemic. It has been very rewarding and I’m grateful I’ve been able to do something seemingly so small to bring a little joy to puzzlers during this time.”

The Douglas Park Little Free Puzzle Library can be found at 1706 S. Lowell Street and is open 24/7 for puzzlers of all ages. More information and updates can be found on its Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Allegra Jabo

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The Arlington County Board has approved road improvement projects on three arterial streets and two neighborhood streets.

The arterial street projects involve Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to bus stops and ramps, improvements to crosswalks, and other changes to S. Arlington Ridge Road, N. Carlin Springs Road and Military Road — at an estimated cost of $550,000.

More from a county staff report:

The work proposed for the intersection of South Arlington Ridge Road and South Lang Street will provide a safer pedestrian crossing to Gunston School and provide ADA compliant bus stops. The improvements at the intersections of North Carlin Springs Road and North Edison Street and North Wakefield Street will deliver ADA compliant bus stops and installation of a RRFB (rectangular rapid flashing beacon) at the North Edison Street intersection. The project planned for the intersections of 36th Road North and North Marcey Road with Military Road will include ADA compliant bus stops and realignment of the intersection for North Marcey Road for improved vehicle movement.

The Board also approved two “Neighborhood Complete Streets” capital projects, including:

  • New sidewalk, curb ramps, and paving along 13th Street S. between Walter Reed Drive and Glebe Road, in the Douglas Park neighborhood
  • Curb extensions and improved bus stops along 7th Road S. in the Arlington Mill neighborhood

The 13th Street project has the goal of a safer pedestrian experience on a street commonly used by cut-through traffic, with an incomplete sidewalk. The 7th Road S. project aims to create “pinch points” to reduce vehicle speeds, on a stretch where speeding and crashes are problematic. Both projects have an approximate cost of $600,000.

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Police are looking for a man who allegedly exposed himself to a woman he asked for directions.

The incident happened this past Friday night in the Douglas Park neighborhood. Arlington County police say the man pulled over to ask for directions, then exposed himself to the victim after the walked over to help.

He was driving a gray, two-door sports car at the time. Police were not able to determine the make and model of the vehicle based on the victim’s description.

More from an ACPD crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2020-06120210, 1400 block of S. George Mason Drive. At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 12, an officer was approached by the victim in need of assistance. It was determined that the victim was walking in the area when the male suspect pulled up next to her in his vehicle and asked for directions. When the victim approached the vehicle to assist the driver, she observed the male suspect lean towards her and expose himself. The suspect then fled in his vehicle. The suspect is described as a white male, with short blonde hair, approximately 6’1″-6’3″, 190-220 lbs., wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. The vehicle is described as a gray, two-door, sports car. The investigation is ongoing.

Also on Friday, a separate indecent exposure incident was reported in the Virginia Square area, near W-L High School and Quincy Park.

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2020-06120104, Washington Boulevard at N. Quincy Street. At approximately 10:42 a.m. on June 12, police were dispatched to the report of an indecent exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside his residence when he looked out the window and observed the male suspect coming in and out of the bushes multiple times, while touching himself inappropriately. He attempted to confront the suspect, who fled on foot prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a black male in his late 40’s or early 50’s, approximately 5’8″, with a white beard, wearing a long sleeve khaki shirt with a blue t-shirt underneath, khaki pants, and a gray hat. The investigation is ongoing.

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Morning Notes

Coronavirus Cases at Arlington Nursing Home — “Rossie Bratten, a 21-year-old Virginia resident, is calling on nursing homes to be more transparent about COVID-19, claiming an Arlington facility caring for his mother never informed the family of positive cases at the site. Bratten claims they only called to be told their mother had tested positive.” [Fox 5, YouTube]

Construction Continuing at DCA — “The coronavirus pandemic has slowed air travel to a trickle, but it has not hindered Project Journey at Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that the new 14-gate north concourse at Reagan Airport remains on schedule to open in July 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bullet Hole Found in Roof of Douglas Park Home — “At approximately 2:31 p.m. on April 13, police were dispatched to the report of a missile into occupied dwelling. Upon arrival, it was determined that contractors performing maintenance on the victim’s house located a hole in her roof and recovered a bullet in the crawl space. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Sen. Ebbin Lauds Signing of Marijuana Bill — “The prohibition on cannabis has for too long had life long impacts on Virginians and disproportionately affected communities of color. Thank you @GovernorVA for signing my and @C_Herring’s bills to decriminalize marijuana.” [Twitter]

County Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month — “Arlington County’s Project PEACE is recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) with virtual observances and daily online opportunities. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, survivors of sexual assault need support, champions and affirmation of their stories and voices.” [Arlington County]

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A 20-year-old man was arrested earlier this week after getting mad at someone honking at him.

The incident happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police say 20-year-old Lizama Gamez of Falls Church was driving on S. Thomas Street in Douglas Park when an oncoming driver beeped their horn.

Gamez then “allegedly pulled alongside the victims and became irate, yelling at them and brandished a firearm,” notes an Arlington County Police crime report. “Arriving officers located the suspect vehicle in the area and the suspect was positively identified.”

Gamez is facing two misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm, as there were two people in the other vehicle at the time, police said. He has since posted bail, court records show, and was due in court for an arraignment this afternoon.

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a major vandalism spree in the area of Columbia Pike.

Police say nearly two dozen parked cars had their tires slashed over the weekend. It happened on the 4500 and 4600 blocks of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the 1100 block of S. Thomas Street, just south of the Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood.

So far, police have no suspect description, only saying that the “investigation is ongoing.”

“Officers canvased the area for surveillance and witnesses with negative results,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in the area on Friday evening into Saturday morning or has any information related to the investigation is asked to contact police.”

More from a crime report:

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY – VEHICLE (series), 2019-05110081/05110088/05110096, 4600 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/4500 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive/1100 block of S. Thomas Street. At approximately 7:28 a.m. on May 11, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 8:30 p.m. on May 10 and 6:30 a.m. on May 11, the tires of approximately 22 vehicles parked in the area were slashed. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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