Press Club

Arlington’s planning division is looking to change the definition of a “family” in the county’s zoning code.

Housing planners say this would stop potentially exclusionary housing practices that discriminate against larger groups of unrelated residents who live together in order to afford staying in Arlington, where home prices and property taxes are rising and there’s a shortage of affordable housing options.

Currently, Arlington’s Zoning Ordinance says up to four unrelated people living together — including “servants,” in a peculiar anachronism — can constitute a “family.” The Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development staff intend to review and possibly write an alternative definition that eliminates the four-person cap.

The code also defines “family” as: a single person living in a household; two or more people living together who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or foster care; or up to eight people who are elderly, sick or disabled living with staff or counselors in a state-licensed facility.

Planning Commission Chair David Weir says he welcomes CPHD’s intentions to do away with the “exclusionary, inaccurate terminology of ‘single-family’ and ‘multifamily’ homes.”

“It’s tempting, I think, to see this change as minimal or immaterial but it’s neither of those things,” he said during a joint CPHD-County Board work session last week. “The difference between zoning for families and zoning for households is as fundamental a matter as the right to choose the people with whom we share our lives, and zoning ordinances are lagging behind other fields of law — like, for example, family law — in recognizing this.”

Planning Commission Chair David Weir (via Arlington County)

Weir recalled when the late County Board member Erik Gutshall realized in a zoning meeting that his family of four probably lived in violation of county ordinances when they took in a foreign exchange student.

“A group of people who choose to share their lives in ways that don’t meet the Mayberry formalities must not for that reason alone be unwelcome in the definitions of the laws that shape how their homes are built,” he said.

County planners have recommended this change for a few years now, saying that people are choosing to live together to afford Arlington prices and access its schools and job opportunities.

“There’s been a rise in the number of non-traditional households living together for socio-economic reasons, such as pooling resources to find affordable housing near good schools or job centers,” county housing planner Joel Franklin said at a 2020 Tenant-Landlord Commission meeting. “For that reason, it was recommended to amend the zoning ordinance to be more inclusive of non-traditional families.”

That recommendation was in the 2019 draft Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing, according to CPHD spokeswoman Erika Moore. The analysis concludes that the cap disadvantages residents who have been priced out of single-family homes.

“As the norms of the American family are shifting, it is apparent that single-family housing is less viable, increasingly unaffordable, and not achieving fairness and inclusion,” it says. “Placing restrictions on the number of unrelated persons living together but who function as a single housekeeping unit restricts housing choice for households comprised of persons living together for economic or other reasons.”

Changing or eliminating the four-person cap dates back at least to 2015, when the County Board adopted the Affordable Housing Master Plan, Moore said. The plan says a more flexible definition is one way the county can try to meet its affordable housing needs through 2040.

While making the change is on the agenda for CPHD, a new definition won’t come overnight.

The planning division identified revising the definition as a second-tier priority for 2022, falling behind more pressing zoning study areas — such as allowing permanent outdoor dining options, permitting micro-fulfillment centers to operate in vacant office buildings and adding elder care housing options in the code.

Tiered priorities of the Arlington planning division (via Arlington County)

Updating the definition would require the county to start a zoning study to examine alternative definitions and develop amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, Moore said.

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Guerra Steakhouse in Rosslyn is off to a slow start after opening this past Saturday, but that is partly by design, according to owner Jackelin Barrera.

The steakhouse at 1725 Wilson Blvd does not yet have a sign, or an advertising campaign, but Barrera said she was more concerned with opening before coronavirus cases could once more threaten businesses to limit capacity.

Guerra offers steaks, wines to pair with them, and other classic steakhouse dishes in the former space of Ben’s Chili Bowl, which closed last year.

The restaurant is family-owned and operated.

“All the people who work inside are family,” said Barrera. “I feel like you can tell the love we have for each other when you taste the food.”

The steakhouse’s story has its roots in family, as it is named for her grandfather, Ermides Guerra, a Guatemalan immigrant who loved steak.

So far, Barrera said the most popular dishes have been the jumbo tiger shrimp with a “fuego spicy paste” and the iceberg wedge topped with blue cheese, bacon, grape tomatoes and radish, in a blue cheese dressing. She said the New York strip steak has also received attention.

“Most of the people that have come by have said Arlington has been missing a good steakhouse,” said Barrera.

In addition to serving quality food, Barrera said Guerra is focused on making patrons feel like part of the family.

“We don’t just give you a steak — we give you an experience,” she said.

Currently, the steakhouse only serves wine and beer, but Barrera said her family plans to add cocktails next week. Down the road, she said the Guerra Steakhouse experience could include a clam bake and a tomahawk steak that will be flamed table-side.

“We’ll hopefully have table-side cocktails too,” she said.

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Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a campfire series for families, staring this week.

The series starts this Saturday, September 7, at Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 Military Road) from 6-7 p.m. and offers attendees campfire stories, games, and s’mores.

The theme of this Saturday’s fire is “Nice Mice,” followed by an “Insect Chorus” event next Saturday 14 at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-8 p.m.

“The whole family is invited to join in our campfires, for lots of old fashioned fun,” wrote organizers on the event’s website. “You’ll hear campfire stories, may meet some animal guests, play games, sing songs and, of course, enjoy s’mores! Each campfire has a nature theme and promises to entertain.”

The series alternates on Saturdays between Gulf Branch and Long Branch until November 23, and each event costs $5 per person.

The county has hosted single-event campfires before, celebrating the Solstice in 2016, New Year’s Eve in 2011, and Memorial Day in 2010.

Image via Flickr/Kevin Smith

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An annual, family-friendly outdoor festival is scheduled to return next weekend with music, dancers, and games.

The 3rd annual “Arlington Palooza” will be held in Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

This year, organizers at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation say there will be laser tag, a bouncy house, face painting, and lessons in making flower crowns and pinwheels, among other activities listed on the event’s website.

Four food trucks will serve the festival, including Big Cheese, El Encanto Latino, Little Miss Whoopie and Salou’s Softy.

This year’s musical line-up includes:

  • 1-1:30 p.m. — The Sunshine Gang, a classic rock and roll band
  • 1:50-2:20 p.m. — Sarah Baumgarten, an H-B Woodlawn student and singer-songwriter who plays the ukulele
  • 3:15-3:50 p.m. — The Blue Flames, an five piece Arlington-based rock band

The Sultanas Troupe will perform a fusion of traditional Middle-Eastern and modern dances from 2:40-3 p.m.

The Arlington Art Truck will also join the festivities with a traveling show about electricity by Baltimore artist Neil Feather.

Police will close one block of 8th Street S. between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive during the event.

The county is warning that parking near the event will be “extremely limited” and is encouraging attendees to find alternative transportation. A spokeswoman for the event noted there will be bike valets, and that scooter company Bird is offering a $5 credit with the coupon code BEFREE.

The department said there will be a “designated drop-off area along S. George Mason Drive near 8th Street S.” for people with disabilities.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Kevin Spacey Pulled Over at DCA — “After appearing in court Monday morning to address sexual assault allegations in Massachusetts, actor Kevin Spacey had yet another brush with law enforcement in the afternoon, this time around Reagan National Airport.” [TMZ, WTOP]

Family Trio All Serves on ACPD — “33 years ago, Corporal Diane Guenther swore she’d never date another police officer. Police Lieutenant Mark Guenther persuaded her otherwise, and they married a year after they started dating. Their daughter, Harley, just celebrated two years as an Arlington County police officer.” [WDVM]

Police Holding Outreach Meetings — The Arlington County Police Department’s latest quarterly outreach meetings will be held at the Fairlington Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 and at Arlington Central Library on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Group to Hold Forum on Entrepreneurship — “The Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will feature a program on starting a business, led by the founders of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs. The meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 527 of Arlington Mill Community Center. The community is invited.” [InsideNova]

Federal Workers Driving for Uber to Make Ends Meet — “‘With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber, and for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money,’ said rideshare driver Nate Murrell.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Arlington County is searching for families willing to foster or adopt children, and anyone interested in learning about taking in a child can attend an information session tomorrow.

Foster care is a temporary arrangement for children who cannot live in their homes because of neglect, abuse or serious family trouble. These children might stay with a foster family for just a few days, or for years. Adults who are approved to foster can explore the possibility of adopting children as well.

Although the county needs families to accept all types of foster children, it has a particular need for people who will care for those of Hispanic, African American and other cultural backgrounds. There’s also high demand for families to take in teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

Foster parents must be over 21, be employed either inside or outside the home and live in a house or apartment in or near Arlington County.

Adults interested in becoming a foster parent — or even just learning about what it entails — can attend an information session tomorrow (Thursday) night from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Contact Erica Serrano for information about the session location, at [email protected] or 703-228-1559.

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(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) It’s not cheap to live in one of the best places for millennials.

That’s according to figures from the Economic Policy Institute, which has come out with an interactive calculator to determine how much it costs individuals and families to comfortably live in Arlington and other U.S. counties.

For a couple with two children in Arlington, it costs about $9,493 per month to live comfortably, according to EPI, or just over $113,915 per year.

The highest monthly costs were attributed to housing, at an average of $2,040 per month — for a “modest” but “sanitary” two-bedroom apartment — but childcare costs in the county were just behind it at $1,801 per month.

Couples without children can make a lot less while still living comfortably in Arlington. Annual pay of $67,840 is what it takes for two people to live here comfortably, without kids, childcare costs and the requisite additional bedrooms.

Single Arlingtonians, though, have to make $56,221 annually to live comfortably — only $11,619 less than a couple does.

Across the Potomac, a D.C. family with two kids needs to bring in $123,975 a year, according to the EPI analysis, while the same family in Manassas City can get by comfortably on $96,314.

Notably, EPI’s methodology didn’t mention any consideration for student loans. There is, however, is a category for “other necessities.”

File photo. Hat tip to James Breiling.

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A 5K race and festival in memory of an Arlington mom killed by a passing truck while placing her children in a minivan will be held for the third time on Saturday.

The Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race begins at 9 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). It will feature a 5K race, a kids’ fun run with Teddy, one of the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents, and a “Family Fun Day Festival.”

The family festival will live feature music from local band Gutterball Kingpin, as well as moon bounces, a rock climbing wall, obstacle course, in-line jumper, human hungry hippo, food trucks, a beer garden, corn hole, face painting, balloon animals and more.

The event benefits the Arlington Pediatric Center and the Virginia Hospital Center Outpatient Obstetrics Clinic, with a focus on prenatal and postnatal health services for underprivileged mothers and babies.

Police will close several roads to accommodate the event. Per the Arlington County Police Department:

The 3rd Annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race will take place on Saturday, November 18, 2017.  The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures from approximately 8:30 AM until 11:00 AM to accommodate this event:

Main Closures:

  • Little Falls Road: N. George Mason Drive to Yorktown Blvd.
  • Yorktown Blvd.: N. George Mason Drive to Williamsburg Blvd.
  • Williamsburg Blvd.: Yorktown Blvd. to N. Emerson Street
  • 33rd Street: N. Emerson Street to N. George Mason Drive
  • George Mason Drive: N. 33rd Street to Yorktown Blvd.
  • Smaller closures exist within the race area
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A nonprofit that supports low-income mothers and their children in Arlington is encouraging local residents to donate this Mother’s Day weekend.

The Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation will use the donations from this year’s campaign to help those vulnerable mothers access proper care before and after they give birth.

It provides access to medical services, counseling and support for economically vulnerable mothers-to-be, newborn babies and new mothers who don’t have the means or resources to start their journey on solid footing.

The foundation is named for Jennifer Bush-Lawson, a mother of three who died in 2014 after being struck by a dump truck in front of Nottingham Elementary School while placing her children in a minivan.

Her husband Neal launched the foundation one year after her death, and has previously hosted a 5K race and festival in her memory.

JB-LF said that hundreds of mothers and babies lack proper care locally. It can be difficult balancing work and child care schedules, finding transportation, navigating health insurance and gaining information, and the foundation assists with those and more.

Already, the foundation has raised over $118,000 for Virginia Hospital Center, provided 12 months of wellness care for 240 babies, provided blood pressure cuffs for in-home monitoring, given a $5,000 grant for specialist care and provided transportation for pregnant mothers.

Members of the JB-LF board will match every dollar donated between now and May 14 up to $4,000.

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington County needs families to foster and adopt children, and it’s holding an information session tomorrow for those who might be interested in opening up their homes.

The children in need of foster care come from a variety of cultural backgrounds and can no longer live in their homes because of abuse, neglect or severe family issues. Fostering is a temporary arrangement, but in some cases it can lead to adoption.

Families willing to take in teenagers, sibling groups and children with special needs are in particularly high demand.

The county has the following qualifications for becoming a foster parent:

  • Able to accept a child who needs a lot of patience, understanding and love
    Over the age of 21
  • Married or single
  • With or without biological children
  • Employed inside or outside the home
  • Living in a house or apartment in Arlington County or the surrounding Virginia area

Staff with Child and Family Services will hold an information session from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The location will be sent to those who RSVP to [email protected]

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2015 Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race (photo via Facebook)Now in its second year, a 5K race and festival is being held this weekend in memory of an Arlington mom killed by a passing truck while placing her children in a minivan.

The Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race will take place on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. It will feature a 5K race, a kids fun run and a “Family Fun Day Festival.”

The festival will feature “music, food trucks, a beer garden, photo booth, rock climbing, ambulance and fire truck display, face painting, moon bounce, obstacle course, balloon animals and more.”

The event is being held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It benefits the Arlington Pediatric Center and the Virginia Hospital Center Outpatient Obstetrics Clinic, with a focus on prenatal and postnatal health services for underprivileged mothers and babies.

“Last year’s race raised over $100,000, and the goal for this year is to raise $150,000,” according to a press release.

A number of road closures will be in effect for the race. From the Arlington County Police Department:

The 2nd Annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race will take place on Saturday, November 19, 2016.  The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures from approximately 8:30 AM until 11:00 AM to accommodate this event:

Main Closures:

  • Little Falls Road: N. George Mason Drive to Yorktown Blvd.
  • Yorktown Blvd.: N. George Mason Drive to Williamsburg Blvd.
  • Williamsburg Blvd.: Yorktown Blvd. to N. Emerson Street
  • 33rd Street: N. Emerson Street to N. George Mason Drive
  • George Mason Drive: N. 33rd Street to Yorktown Blvd.
  • Smaller closures exist within the race area

Any questions regarding the race can be directed to the Emergency Communication Center at (703) 558-2222.  For day of information or emergencies, please instruct them to have the race supervisor (Lt. Ken Dennis) call you directly.

Photo via Facebook

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