A group of residents want to have Westover designated a local historic district.
Most of Westover — which was developed between 1938 and 1948 — is currently designated as a national historic district, but that hasn’t prevented redevelopment of some properties, most recently an aging garden apartment building that’s being torn down and replaced by townhouses.
The Arlington Green Party is pushing for a local historic designation, which would impose restrictions on tear-downs and renovations.
“This action occurs because developers have demolished about a dozen historic apartment buildings in Westover to build luxury townhouses,” wrote the Green Party’s John Reeder. “In the process, many old trees and green space was destroyed as well as over 60 moderate income rental apartments. These apartment buildings were built in 1940, and have housed moderate income renters in Westover for the past 75 years.”
“With local historic designation, building owners [would] be required to maintain the current building, and could not demolish it unless it was offered for sale for one year to another property owner who would maintain the building,” Reeder explained.
This summer Arlington County officials have participated in community meetings, explaining the process and what it would mean for the community. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator of Arlington County’s historic preservation program, says the county has not yet taken a stance on the designation.
“The local historic district designation process for Westover is still only in the very beginning stages,” she said. “The County did not initiate this designation request, but since a formal request was received on June 23 the County staff will facilitate the public process as detailed in Section 11.3.4 of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance.”
Some in the neighborhood are not convinced of the virtue of a local historic designation. A anonymously-distributed flyer that recently wound up on Westover doorsteps warned of a loss of property rights with a historic designation.
“You and all future owners will permanently lose the right to change the exterior of your property, including demolishing it to build a new dream home,” the flyer said, calling a historic designation “a discriminatory action” and encouraging residents to petition the county to call off the process.
Liccese-Torres said a local historic designation does not preclude all changes to homes.
As we explained at the meeting, developing design guidelines will be a collaborative process with the community and involve many conversations with owners about what types of changes they would like to manage in their neighborhood. It does not mean that 1940s-era materials would be the only ones allowed to be used, nor does it mean that homes and buildings could never be changed. Rather, the design guidelines and the design review process itself help ensure that certain types of exterior changes respect the architectural character of what’s already there. Design guidelines are not one-size-fits-all but crafted to address the particular characteristics of each district and the desires of the property owners. We will rely on community input to help shape the draft guidelines.
Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) is expected to hold a public hearing on the Westover historic designation this fall. If the board votes to move the designation request forward, a study would officially begin. Ultimately, it will be up to the Arlington County Board as to whether to approve the request, its proposed design guidelines and the historic district boundaries.
“Overall, from start to finish, the local designation process will take many months to complete, including the updated architectural survey, continuous outreach with the property owners and community, and multiple public hearings with the HALRB, Planning Commission, and County Board,” Liccese-Torres said.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
Party members recommend voters say no to the bonds because they are too broad. They believe approving the bonds would be the equivalent of offering blank checks to the Arlington School Board and the Arlington County Board to spend money on non-specific items.
The four bonds total nearly $219 million and include issues such as funding a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as continuing funding for the Metro system.
“Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan),” said Arlington Green Party Chairman John Reeder. “South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School. Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”
Party members point to past bonds approved by voters that apparently were vaguely worded and ended up funding controversial developments around the county.
“This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley,” said Reeder. “Voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”
Although it has traditionally has run its own candidates in recent County Board elections, the Arlington Green Party has endorsed independent board member John Vihstadt in the November election.
Board to Consider Sign for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Arlington County Board next month will consider lifting a prohibition on rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office towers. The action would potentially allow the JBG Cos. to begin work on its Central Place office tower, which is expected to be anchored by the Corporate Executive Board. [Washington Business Journal]
Fisette Asks for Alternative Streetcar Funding Plan — Federal funding is currently expected to pay for half of Arlington’s $287 million share of the Columbia Pike streetcar system’s costs. But federal funding is not guaranteed and, at last night’s Capital Improvement Plan work session, County Board Chair Jay Fisette asked Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach to work on an alternate streetcar funding plan that does not use federal dollars or county funds from residential taxpayers. [Mobility Lab]
Green Party Endorses Vihstadt Again — The Arlington Green Party, which endorsed independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in this spring’s special election, has announced that it will endorse him again in November’s general election. [InsideNova]
UberX Lowers Fares — Two weeks after Virginia started cracking down on ridesharing services, UberX — the service where regular people drive you around in their personal cars — has lowered its fares in the D.C. area by 25 percent. The new fares are significantly lower than comparable cab fares, the company says. [InTheCapital]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Greens Skeptical of Affordable Housing Task Force — A task force appointed by Arlington County to conduct a three-year study of affordable housing issues is being criticized by the Arlington Green Party, which believes the county isn’t doing enough on affordable housing. “Yet another example of government appointing yet another task force and coming up with recommendations not likely to be implemented, nor to be effective in any event, if even implemented,” the party is quoted as saying. [Sun Gazette]
Road Closures for Four Courts Four Miler — The annual Four Courts Four Miler race will take place Saturday morning and will close down large portions of Wilson Blvd and northbound Route 110. [Arlington County]
Sickles Drops Out of Congressional Race — Democrat Del. Mark Sickles, who represents part of southern Fairfax County, has dropped out of the crowded field of candidates vying to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran in Congress. Sickles said he decided to drop out after performing poorly in a survey of likely voters. [Falls Church News-Press]
The Arlington Green Party has voted to endorse John Vihstadt, who’s running as an independent for Arlington County Board.
The Greens are endorsing Vihstadt in lieu of nominating their own candidate for the upcoming County Board special election. The party says Vihstadt shares their “opposition to expensive vanity projects, such as the Columbia Pike trolley and the Long Bridge aquatics center.”
From a press release:
Arlington Greens voted on January 16 to endorse independent candidate John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board election to be held this spring to fill the vacant seat left by the resignation of Chris Zimmerman.
Arlington Green Party Chair Steve Davis noted, “The Arlington Green Party endorsement of John Vihstadt shows that people across the political spectrum can find common ground in supporting independent-minded candidates like John who have a positive, inclusive vision for Arlington’s future. We look forward to working with John on his election campaign.”
This is the first county board election in the past seven years in which the Arlington Greens have not nominated their own candidate. This year the Greens have chosen to endorse Vihstadt who shares the Greens’ opposition to expensive vanity projects, such as the Columbia Pike trolley and the Long Bridge aquatics center, at the expense of funding core county programs such as schools, safety net spending, and affordable housing.
In 2013, the Arlington Greens nominated Audrey Clement who received about 32 percent of the votes cast against Democrat Jay Fisette. The Arlington Greens also supported in 2013 the creation of a housing authority to keep more affordable rental housing in the county.
Green Party, VOICE at Odds on Affordable Housing — Two groups that both support more affordable housing in Arlington, the Arlington Green Party and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), are seemingly at odds over the means to that end. VOICE didn’t support the Green Party’s housing authority referendum, and now the Green Party is blasting VOICE because the group “prefers, apparently, to work closely with the Democratic ruling party behind closed doors and support a dysfunctional housing-assistance program.” [Sun Gazette]
New Year’s Eve Events — If you’re still trying to decide where to celebrate the arrival of 2014 in Arlington, our New Year’s Eve guide has 10 ideas for you.
New Year’s Day Closures — Most Arlington County facilities and services will be closed tomorrow, Jan. 1. The Arlington County Board, however, will hold its traditional New Year’s Day organizational meeting at 11:00 a.m.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Audrey Clement, running for the County Board for the fourth straight election, lost to incumbent Democrat Jay Fisette, 66 to 31 percent. She was actually encouraged by the results, but said the 30 percent range appears to be a Green Party candidate’s best possible result.
“In our best races we seem to be hitting up against a glass ceiling of 30 percent,” she said at the Green Party’s election gathering at Westover Beer Garden. “It seems we can’t break that ceiling. I think we will when the county breaks the budget.”
Clement said she was more disappointed with the result of the redevelopment and housing authority vote than she was with her own defeat in the election, because she believes the current housing situation could lead to more homelessness. The referendum was struck down with 69 percent of the voters choosing “no.”
“A lot of people in this expensive apartments are living from paycheck to paycheck, and eventually they’re going to be displaced,” she said. “When that happens, that’s when they will change their vote.”
Clement said she felt if voters understood the issue better, then they would have voted “yes.” The sample ballot she distributed at the polls explaining the issue, however, was long and difficult to read.”
“Next time around, we have to do a better job with our literature,” she said.
Asked whether she would run again, Clement said “it remains to be seen.” She lost her job as an independent contractor in July, and although she has since secured another position, she said it’s only temporary. Since her races are largely self-funded — she spent $3,855 on her campaign this year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project — the status of her next campaign is up in the air.
Despite the defeat, Clement and her Green Party compatriots were not discouraged. Party Chairman Steve Davis said “30 percent is really good for the Green Party in an election.”
“My campaign was a success,” Clement said. “It’s not quite winning, but it’s not bad to get a respectable vote. I feel worse about the housing authority because people are going to be suffering as a result of their lack of interest in the issue.”
By statute, the Board must approve the referendum if 2 percent of the county’s qualified voters sign a petition. After a six-month campaign championed by the Arlington Green Party, the petition to create the authority got the necessary 2,845 signatures in June.
Approval is scheduled for the Board’s Tuesday meeting, its last meeting until September. The Board must approve the measure before it goes on its summer recess in order to meet the state-mandated deadline of August 16.
The item is not on the Board’s public agenda, which prompted a concerned email to County Board Chairman Walter Tejada from Arlington Green Party treasurer Audrey Clement earlier this week. Though Tejada assured Clement that the resolution will be brought up, she’s now worried that the county will try to influence voters into voting down the referendum, which was on the ballot but failed to pass in 2008.
At that time, a county-disseminated Q&A flyer stated that a housing authority would not produce more affordable housing, and “would only have access to the same tools and finding that the County currently uses.”
“Not only is this language non-neutral, it is false,” Clement told ARLnow.com. “Unlike the subsidies currently awarded by Arlington County to private housing corporations, a housing authority would get most of its funds not from the taxpayers but from [Department of Housing and Urban Development] guaranteed bonds issued in private capital markets.”
“In light of county government’s longstanding opposition to establishment of a housing authority, I am concerned that it will once again lobby to stop the referendum dead in its tracks by disseminating biased information about the referendum in contravention of state law,” she said.
County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said the county stands by its statements in the Q&A from 2008. The County Attorney is not aware of any legal complaint over the message.
“We reject any allegation in any way we acted improperly or illegally, then and even now,” Curtius said. “We feel that everything we said then was factual and neutral, and if we say anything this time, it will be factual and neutral.”
According to HUD’s website, there are 17 buildings that offer subsidized housing in Arlington, compared to nine in Alexandria and 42 in Fairfax County. Both of those jurisdictions have their own housing authority.
Advocates have spent nearly six months attempting to gather enough signatures to secure a spot on the Arlington ballot for a measure supporting a government-run low income housing authority. County election officials now confirm that the group submitted the required 2,845 signatures needed to place a referendum on the November 5 ballot.
The referendum will ask Arlington voters to authorize the operation of a low income housing authority, similar to those in more than 25 cities and counties around the state including Alexandria and Fairfax County. The Arlington Green Party (AGP) spearheaded the signature gathering efforts.
“Arlington’s current housing assistance program has failed to stop the loss of affordable housing, and a housing authority would raise funds more easily, lower administrative costs, and provide more affordable rental units,” said AGP chairman Steve Davis. “Arlington should follow Fairfax’s County’s outstanding example with a housing authority that provides more affordable housing to more people at less cost.”
Arlington had the most expensive rental housing in 2010, except for Alexandria, according to Davis. He said more than 14,000 families in Arlington needed affordable housing that year.
Advocates for a housing authority claim the agency would help the county secure federal housing funds. They also contend it would reduce the county’s costs by consolidating all housing functions under one umbrella agency.
The signatures will be presented to the County Board, which is expected to take up the measure at its July meeting, confirmed Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg. According to a state statute, the Board is required to pass the measure on to Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman, who has the ultimate authority to put it on the ballot.
Lindberg notes that this is the third time such a measure has been put on the ballot and it has been defeated each time. Most recently, voters rejected the measure in 2008 by a 2-1 margin.
So far this is the only referendum scheduled to appear on the November 5 general election ballot. The deadline for other referenda to make it onto the ballot is August 16.
Trash Collection Canceled — Trash collection in Arlington has been canceled today due to the snow storm. Trash collection is currently expected to resume tomorrow, with collection delayed one day for the rest of the week (Wednesday customers’ trash being collected on Thursday, etc.). “Please do not put your trash or recycling on the curb this Wednesday,” said the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “Wednesday collection routes are in the hilliest parts of the County and expose the collection crews and the public to the greatest safety risks in a snow event.”
School Boundary Meeting Canceled — A school boundary meeting scheduled for today has been canceled. Instead, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy will be holding a boundary town hall meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11, at Williamsburg Middle School. APS, meanwhile, has made some minor tweaks to its boundary change plan, after hearing critical feedback from parents. [Arlington Public Schools, Patch]
Moran, Connolly Support Metrorail Extensions — Virginia Congressmen Gerry Connolly and Jim Moran have introduced a bill calling for a study of an extension of Metro’s Blue, Yellow and Orange lines to Potomac Mills, Fort Belvoir and Centreville respectively. “We need to look at solutions that take cars off the roads and provide viable transportation alternatives for our citizens,” Connolly said in a statement. [Rep. Gerry Connolly, DCist]
Green Party Seeks Housing Authority Referendum — The Arlington Green Party is trying to drum up support from the local faith community for its push for a new housing authority. The Greens are trying to collect 3,000 signatures to get a measure on the ballot that would establish a housing authority in Arlington County, with the goal of creating more affordable housing units. [Arlington Mercury]
Green Party Outperforms Past Results — By pulling in 12.4 percent of the vote for County Board, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have typically received during past County Board races. The question now is can the Greens get that percentage even higher next time by better identifying who is voting for the party’s candidates? [Sun Gazette]
Miss Saigon Coming to Signature Theater — Signature Theater has secured the rights to the well known musical Miss Saigon, and will open its 2013-2014 season with a version of the production. It will be the first time a theater company in the D.C. area has taken on the show in 15 years. [Variety]
Ballot Wording Angers Aquatics Center Opponents — Voters passed all four bond referenda on the Arlington ballot on Tuesday, including one for a park bond that funds the proposed $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. Opponents of the facility, however, say the measure only passed due to vague wording on the ballot which stated that the bond was for “various capital projects for local parks and recreation, and land acquisition for parks and open space.” [Washington Examiner]
ABBIE Voting Ends Today — Today is the final day to cast your votes for Arlington’s best businesses. The businesses in 17 categories were nominated by residents and winners are determined by popular vote. ABBIE winners will be announced at the County Board meeting on November 27.
Disclosure: The ABBIE Awards/Arlington Economic Development is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Greens Vote ‘No’ on Park Bond — The Arlington Green Party has joined the Arlington County Republican Committee in opposing the $50.5 million park bond that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot. The bond would largely help fund a new Long Bridge Park aquatics center. The Greens said the aquatics center is “wasteful” and a “vanity project.” The Greens stayed neutral on the $42.6 million school bond, with some members criticizing the plan to build two new elementary schools because it is “too costly and eliminates green space and recreation fields.” [Arlington Mercury]
APS Enrollment on the Rise — Enrollment at Arlington Public Schools is up 3.7 percent versus one year ago. The growth — mostly at the elementary school level and mostly in North Arlington — is in line with school administrators’ projections. There are now 22,657 pre-K to 12th grade students enrolled at Arlington’s public schools. [Sun Gazette]
Artisphere Still Facing Challenges — Artisphere, which launched on 10/10/10, is turning two years old tomorrow. The money-losing cultural center is still facing challenges, however. Private rentals at the facility, touted as Artisphere’s financial savior, are below expectations, according to the Washington City Paper. And music bookings through the end of the year appear to be light. [Washington City Paper]
Clement has been nominated as the Green Party’s candidate for County Board in this fall’s election. It’s her third County Board run in a year, after losses in the November 2011 general election and the March 2012 special election.
The Arlington Greens issued the following statement about Clement’s nomination:
The Arlington Green Party officially nominated Audrey Clement as its candidate for the Arlington County Board in the November 6, 2012 general election at its monthly meeting on June 6. Dr. Clement, who qualified for the ballot in April, has run for County Board twice before. She has pledged to make fiscal responsibility and providing for basic needs over big ticket capital spending projects the centerpiece of her campaign.
Ms. Clement said that she will vigorously oppose spending $300 million in Arlington local funds for an ill-designed trolley on Columbia Pike that will only serve to eliminate affordable housing, and waste funds urgently needed for public schools and other county projects.
Audrey is a long time Arlington resident, an IT consultant, and holds a Ph.D. in political science. She has run twice for the Arlington County Board as a Green against Democratic and Republican opponents. She is an avid bicyclist, environmentalist, and mass transit supporter. Her campaign website is: http://audreyclement.org/
The Arlington Green Party has had a candidate for Arlington county board election for the past six years; in 2009, the Green candidate received about 32 percent of the total votes cast.
Water Main Break in Fairlington — A large water main break shut down the intersection of 31st and S. Abingdon Streets in Fairlington last night. [WUSA 9]
Joe Paterno Hires Clarendon Firm — Before he was fired by university trustees last night, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno hired Clarendon-based TMG Strategies to handle media inquiries. TMG specializes in crisis communications. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Green Party’s Fortunes Tied to GOP — Green Party candidates in Arlington seem to do significantly better on election day when there’s no Republican in the race. [Sun Gazette]
New Art on ART Buses — There are a few new whimsical illustrations on the county’s ART buses. The art was created by Nigerian-born and Alexandria, Va.-based artist Victor Ekpuk, as a joint venture between Arlington Transit and the Artisphere. [CommuterPage Blog]
Deal on Romeo and Juliet Tix — The Washington Post is offering $55 tickets to Synetic Theater’s Crystal City performance of Romeo and Juliet for $25. Synetic, which only recently established its home base in Crystal City, is a physical theater company — its shows substitute intense physical acting for dialogue. The deal expires at midnight tonight. Romeo and Juliet opens on Nov. 25. [The Capitol Deal]
Although Democrats swept the races in Arlington County, that didn’t dampen the spirits of those who cast votes for Republicans and Green Party candidates.
A few dozen die-hard Republicans turned out at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon for an Arlington County Republican Committee victory party that, in the end, had few victories to celebrate. State Senate candidate Patrick Forrest briefly mingled with the crowd early in the night. He was full of optimism, even as returns showed him steadily behind incumbent Democrat Janet Howell.
“It has been a hard, uphill slog,” Forrest said. “But keep your fingers crossed.”
Forrest said this election made him realize how important it is to employ a good campaign staff. He touted their tireless efforts, particularly in an area where getting people to vote Republican can be challenging.
“I now understand that the candidate is really just a small part of the campaign,” he said.
ACRC Communications Director Jeff Miller said Forrest was great for a first time candidate. Miller believes Forrest and the other Republicans would have received higher numbers if more voters had gone to the polls.
“Turnout figures today are a reminder of how many voters in Arlington don’t pay close attention to state and local politics,” Miller said. “No matter how hard you try, there are just some people you can’t lure in.”
Miller said that Forrest had some great ideas for improving transportation in Northern Virginia, but it didn’t seem to resonate with voters.
Early optimism over the candidacy of Caren Merrick ended with a disappointing defeat. The McLean businesswoman came up short in her state Senate bid, falling to Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola.
Merrick’s campaign lacked the excitement that some expected, but the mother of two told the Sun Gazette that she fought the good fight.
“I really wanted to run the kind of campaign my children would be proud of,” Merrick said, according to the paper.
Green Party County Board candidate Audrey Clement came in third behind incumbent Democrats Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada. It took her a while to learn of the final numbers, having been more focused on meeting with supporters at Northside Social in Clarendon. Clement said although she’s obviously disappointed with the results, she’s not surprised. She attributes the outcome to voter apathy. Clement believes the average voter is frustrated with the system and blocks out everything related to politics or elections.
“We’re just not going to see success until people stop ignoring the elections and start voting,” Clement said. “Voters are turned off to both Republicans and Democrats, so they punish anyone who might be an alternative.”
Although disappointed, Clement is not discouraged.
“I think eventually people are going to realize the importance of the ballot box,” she said.