Local homebuilder Classic Cottages is no longer just building large, custom homes — a new subsidiary will now build a high-end “backyard cottages” as well.
Responding to Arlington’s recent loosening of rules on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — small structures built in backyards, also known as “in-law suites” — Classic Cottages (an ARLnow sponsor) launched a new venture called Backyard Cottages.
“The ability to now legally add a Backyard Cottage creates a unique opportunity for Arlington County single-family home residents to create a flexible, separate living area,” the company’s website says. “There are many benefits from investing in a Backyard Cottage, including long-term rental income or flexible space to serve immediate or future needs.”
Backyard Cottages has partnered with URBANEER to offer a 510-square-foot ADU model (pictured above) to Arlington residents who want additional living space on their property, starting this spring. URBANEER’s lead investor is Raul Fernandez, who is part of the ownership group for the Washington Capitals and Wizards.
Supporters of ADUs tout them as a way to “fight against the national housing crisis” and provide additional, cost-effective homes in existing neighborhoods. Critics say ADUs, should they become more widespread, could result in trees being cut down, overcrowding and additional traffic in neighborhoods.
It has been a slow start for ADUs in Arlington since county code was first changed to allow them. From 2009-2017, only 20 ADUs were built. Backyard Cottages is banking on loosened rules and more attractive building options spurring a local boom in ADU production.
“There is an immediate need for new, affordable housing stock in the D.C. area, and we see this detached ADU sector as a large, new opportunity to help serve that need in this region for years to come,” said Backyard Cottages CEO Pierce Tracy. “The URBANEER 510 model will be unlike other ADU options on the market. Our ability to showcase one of the first units built in the country… will provide an opportunity for our local residents to see the innovation and quality of these units first-hand.”
“For homeowners, these ‘Backyard Cottages’ help with affordability by providing rental income, or can be used for a family member to live in,” he added. “The flexibility of uses provides value to the homeowner, as family’s needs will change over time.”
Pricing is expected to be finalized in March and will vary depending on site conditions and options selected, a Backyard Cottages spokeswoman said.
Trash Collection Cancelled — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]
Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]
Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]
Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]
Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]
Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]
New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]
Libby Garvey was selected by her colleagues as Arlington County Board Chair for 2020, following a tradition of the Board member up for reelection serving as chair.
Garvey, who’s facing another primary challenge this year, outlined her priorities at the County Board’s annual organizational meeting last night, calling for a focus on “equity, innovation and resilience,” amid the growth of Amazon’s HQ2 and a continued challenges with affordable housing.
More from Garvey’s speech:
We’ve been managing change and growth for some time, and doing it well, but the arrival of Amazon has made the scope of our current challenge large and clear. We need to change a paradigm: the paradigm that the most vulnerable in a society are the first to suffer from change and the last to gain from it — if they ever gain at all. Economic change tends not to be equitable. That’s the old paradigm. We want a new one.
We want to be a model of progress and growth with equity. That’s a tall order. I think focusing on three areas in 2020 will help.
First, Equity. We must commit to an Arlington where progress benefits everyone, not just some. That especially includes our older residents, the people who built the Arlington we have today.
Second, Innovation. We need to double down on innovative thinking. We can’t always keep using the same solutions.
Third, Resilience. The solutions we find must not only be equitable, but they need to last over time.
So, as Board Chair, I will continue to focus on equity in 2020 like our Chair did in 2019. We have a lot of work to do. It is outlined in the resolution we adopted and includes 4 simple questions: Who benefits? Who is burdened? Who is missing? How do we know?
Specific policy focuses for 2020 include affordable housing, cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions, and stormwater management.
“Our July 8 storm showed clearly that our 20th-century infrastructure and approaches will not work well for 21st-century storms,” Garvey said. “When we begin work on our Capital Improvement Plan budget this spring we should see some very different solutions to stormwater management.”
Garvey, who faced a backlash from the local Democratic party after her vocal opposition to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar and support for independent County Board member John Vihstadt, took a moment after her selection as chair to support another embattled County Board member: Christian Dorsey.
“Christian is a real asset to this board, to this community — we’re lucky to have you,” Garvey said of Dorsey, who last month told ARLnow that he regrets not informing the community that he had declared bankruptcy before the November election.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Erik Gutshall — who is up for reelection in 2021 and is next year’s presumed chair — was selected as Vice Chair. The priorities Gutshall outlined include making changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance so as to encourage the creation of additional homes.
More from a county press release:
Amazon’s arrival requires an increased focus, or “leveling up” by the County “how we grow matters.” Arlington’s next level of managed growth, he said, “will focus beyond first-order urban design principles of sidewalk widths, building heights, and traffic circulation, and instead level up to an essential focus on equity, infrastructure like schools and stormwater, and a broader definition of quality of life and livability.”
To achieve that sort of managed growing, Gutshall said, “will require new tools and a modernized zoning ordinance to expand our housing supply in a way that enhances the livability of our existing neighborhoods.” It also requires the development of a long-range, comprehensive Public Facilities Plan “to guide the collaborative, creative, timely and efficient siting and development of County and Schools facilities.” Gutshall said he looks forward to continuing to work with County and APS staff, and the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission to begin drafting the plan by July 2020 and looks forward to working with County staff to achieve the ambitious goals of the County’s updated Community Energy Plan and to conduct a campaign to highlight and profile small businesses.
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Could legalizing duplexes and triplexes in certain areas be a way to provide more affordable, middle-income housing in Arlington?
That’s what Arlington County will trying to determine with a new “Missing Middle Housing Study.”
In announcing the study, the county pushed back on the assertion — made by some activists — that it was looking to eliminate single-family zoning entirely, as was done in Minneapolis. Instead, county staff said that “neither an across-the-board rezoning, nor an elimination of single-family zoning, would be the right fit for Arlington.”
The study will explore whether allowing more types of housing could “address the shortage of housing supply in Arlington” and will determine where the new housing types could be allowed so as to be “compatible with existing neighborhoods.”
The study — part of the overall Housing Arlington initiative — is expected to begin in 2020.
Meanwhile, a statewide missing middle housing bill has been proposed. HB 152, introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates by a Northern Virginia legislator, proposes requiring “all localities to allow development or redevelopment of ‘middle housing’ residential units upon each lot zoned for single-family residential use.”
The press release on the Arlington County housing study is below, after the jump.
Those who live in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods traditionally have dominated the direction of local governance. They are the ones who have controlled the selection of local officials and then, through activism, ensured public policy proceeds the way they desire.
But if Arlington’s 2019 election season taught us anything, it was that – given enough cash to barrage apartment-dwellers with campaign mailers of questionable veracity – it’s possible to sway those folks (who often have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever) to get out and vote in races that previously had been of purely local import.
“Be prepared: The ‘woke’ culture that was swayed to enact purported criminal-justice reform will be gunning for others – perhaps even single-family neighborhoods – next,” the editorial concludes.
The debate over whether the “Arlington Way” — the catch-all term for the county’s system of community engagement — advantages certain types of residents over others occasionally flares up in the halls of local government.
Generally, the most engaged tend to be homeowners, older residents and people outraged about a particular proposal. Renters, younger residents, those who are generally satisfied with local government but not passionate about it, and those busy with work and/or family are less likely to serve on commissions or wait to speak at Saturday morning County Board meetings.
In a democratic election, one vote counts as much as the other, but once elected, officials are able to set their own priorities. As seen in the Sun Gazette editorial, some feel that those who have invested in a community — homeowners — should generally be given more of a voice than those who haven’t put down roots.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy @dcaman
Heading into the new year, with Amazon’s HQ2 taking shape, two local advocacy groups plan on continuing to push officials on the issue. But one believes more density is the solution, while the other claims increasing the housing supply would wreck community character and the environment.
Peter Rousselot, Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF)
In April, Peter Rousselot — a board member of the Together Virginia PAC and ARLnow columnist — founded Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a group working to advocate against zoning changes and accelerated density in Arlington. Rousselot previously formed a similar group, Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, to oppose plans for a streetcar along Columbia Pike.
In recent months, flyers spotted across Arlington from ASF argue that “Arlington County has plans to eliminate single-family home zoning and change other regulations” — changes that “would cause a county-wide population surge, escalating taxes, destructive flooding and environmental degradation.”
“Don’t let Arlington become the next Houston,” the flyer says.
“We believe there shouldn’t be any significant further changes in zoning until we have the right planning tools,” Rousselot told ARLnow.
While ASF does not have a website, a copy of its platform provided to ARLnow argues that the county needs the following before implementing zoning changes:
- A flooding and land use plan utilizing an accepted floodplain management tool
- A ten-year projected county operating budget for different population and revenue scenarios
- Community planning tools to assess costs and benefits of different development scenarios
Per the ASF platform, eliminating single-family zoning and adding more density would “transform Arlington from an urban village to a paved metropolis — [affecting] our schools, environment, trees, infrastructure, flooding, taxes, housing affordability, and county budget.”
“Our approach to housing affordability is that we don’t want to see this approach [where the county] accelerates the development of hundreds of new market-rate units in order to create a small number of affordable units,” said Rousselot.
“What we would like to do is redirect county taxpayer money to enable people to afford to live here,” said Rousselot. “That we decide as a community to help them to get the money directly in their hands though things like rental vouchers and housing grants.”
According to Rousselot, there are now more than 100 members in ASF.
Michelle Winters, Arlington for Everyone/Alliance for Housing Solutions
The mission of the group is to “make Arlington a place where people from all walks of life are welcome and can afford to live,” per the organization’s website.
HQ2 Business Boom Strains County — “A full year after Amazon.com Inc. announced that it would set up shop in Arlington, there’s little doubt the company has drawn the sort of surge in business and development interest that local leaders promised as they pursued HQ2 — but all of that activity has also put a strain on the local government as it prepares for the tech giant’s arrival.” [Washington Business Journal]
‘National Landing’ Name Falls Flat — “It’s been one year since the HQ2 announcement, and with it the coordinated airdrop of the name, ‘National Landing,’ on an unsuspecting and bewildered population… So has National Landing stuck? Not really, at least among the common people, according to the folks I interviewed.” [Washington Business Journal]
Amazon Adjacent Real Estate Skyrockets — “The median home price in the 22202 ZIP code, which encompasses all of HQ2, was $815,000 in October. That’s about a 51% year-to-date increase or a $275,000 difference, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime, based on listing activity from Bright MLS.” [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]
Housing Affordability Increasing? — “With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019… for the Washington area, high incomes helped to offset the pricey cost of housing, with the resulting regional opportunity index higher than the national average.” [InsideNova]
County Pleased With Water Main Break Response — “How well did Arlington County in Virginia think it handled the water main break that triggered a boil water advisory for more than 100,000 customers in the county and parts of Northwest D.C.? Pretty well, it seems.” [WTOP]
New American Legion Bridge Coming — “Commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes. The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.” [Tysons Reporter]
In one of its first concrete votes under the Housing Arlington umbrella, the County Board will consider a proposal on November 16 to revise its incentive zoning program that gives developers additional density in exchange for community amenities, particularly affordable housing or community facilities.
Within this admirable proposal to increase density, however, is a small but troubling indication that County staff may not trust the market to deliver housing for middle-income households.
Currently, developers can earn up to 25% additional density and up to 6 additional stories by including affordable housing or a community facility in their project. The County staff wants to remove the 25% cap on bonus density, but also eliminate the option to earn additional height.
This means that the County Board could approve buildings with higher density, if the height fits the zoning district or applicable adopted plan. The goal is to encourage more affordable housing and community facilities through site plan developments, while maintaining the height maximums that neighborhoods have come to expect.
The decision to lift the cap on bonus density is laudable, but removing the option for bonus height will not give our land use policies the flexibility to meet current market conditions. Much of Arlington’s land is governed by outdated zoning codes that don’t recognize or accommodate the current housing crisis. This change would perpetuate the “grand bargain” that allows height in narrow Metro corridors but restricts it even in other transit-heavy neighborhoods.
Planning staff want their planning process to take the lead, but this can mean years of work, managed through a community process that over-represents the most affluent, housing-secure residents.
However, more concerning is the less-discussed component of this proposal to modify the definition of “low- to moderate-income” used to determine whether affordable housing in a site plan is eligibility for bonus density. Currently, a project can receive bonus density for housing that is affordable to households making 60% Area Median Income (AMI), or $72,000 for a family of four, for rental units and 80% AMI ($97,000/year) for ownership. Given the emphasis on “missing middle housing,” staff wants to loosen these definitions and explore offering bonus density to projects that offer ownership units affordable to households making up to 120% AMI ($140,000/year).
Arlington County clearly lacks affordable ownership housing for middle-income households, especially those seeking family-sized units. However, the County Board should not use incentive zoning to create housing for families making $100,000 to $140,000 per year. We should allow missing-middle options by-right and let the market provide housing for these relatively affluent households. When we use incentive zoning to achieve housing for higher-income people, we limit the opportunity to produce housing stock that assists lower-income households who are not served by the market.
Expanding the upper income range for zoning incentives tells me that the County may be unwilling to push for market reforms that would make this housing a regular development. Housing for middle-income families is not a gift that developers give us. We should permit the density and housing forms throughout the county that will make this housing profitable to build without any special encouragement. If we can’t get housing for 120% AMI without using these tools, then our zoning is wrong.
Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her husband and son. By day, she is the Development Director for Greater Greater Washington and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.
Just a few months into the county’s “Housing Arlington” initiative, Arlington’s Housing Director is retiring.
David Cristeal is stepping down after 15 years with the county, including six as Housing Director. Cristeal was elevated to the position in 2013 after a nationwide search.
At the time, he won plaudits from then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan for “working successfully with Arlington community members and non-profit partners to plan and preserve affordable housing.”
On Thursday, a county spokeswoman said Cristeal was retiring, after an inquiry from ARLnow about a job ad on the Washington Post website. His last day will be next Friday, the spokeswoman said.
From the job listing:
Arlington County’s Community Planning, Housing and Development is seeking a dynamic, energetic, and innovative Housing Director. This is a unique opportunity to work on a variety of housing solutions for one of the country’s most densely populated and well-educated communities. Recently, Arlington County has attracted new and expanding companies that have or will be bringing tens of thousands of new, high paying jobs to the County over the coming decade. This significant influx of workers will further stress the region’s already competitive housing market.
- Implementing a new Housing Arlington initiative through a multi-department effort, while remaining responsible for other housing programs and initiatives that serve a diverse community;
- Providing regional solutions to solve the complex challenge of serving the growing needs of the low and moderate-income residents in the County;
- Developing strategies to increase supply for low income residents and moderate-income residents who are also impacted by increasing housing prices; and
- Providing comprehensive approach to meeting housing needs, which is vital for economic sustainability, diversity, and quality of life.
The ad was posted on Thursday and lists an annual salary range of $101,150.40-$197,163.20.
The Housing Arlington initiative aims to create more housing — particularly for low- and middle-income residents — to help accommodate anticipated population growth. Earlier this year Arlington County reported that it had lost 17,000 market-rate affordable housing units since 2005 and was expecting 58,000 more residents by 2045.
A new historical map of Arlington allows users to explore what the county looked like 100 years ago.
The digital map depicts a mix of new and old pictures, showing the buildings that were standing in Arlington’s neighborhoods in the 1920s. By clicking pinpoints on a county map, users can check out the homes and businesses that are (or were) located on that site and read caption notes.
“I think that this StoryMap, besides being nifty, allows people to play with it, and also give you a real historical sense of what Arlington used to look like besides these fantastic visions of glamour columns,” said Falls Church News-Press columnist and local historian Charlie Clark, who made the map for the Arlington Historical Society.
Clark told ARLnow he was inspired by the Smithsonian’s map last year that depicted John Wilkes Booth’s escape route through the streets of D.C. and down to Fredericksburg. He said the ability to combine a map with on-the-ground photos and text could also help tell Arlington stories.
“I just happen to think of this before the anniversary of Arlington getting its name,” Clark said, referring to the bill in 1920 that allowed the county to change its name from Alexandria County to Arlington County. “So I think this would be a great opportunity to get this out.”
The society hopes to plan several celebrations next year to mark the 100th anniversary of Arlington’s name.
Clark assembled photos from the era from his own records as well as from public archives and friends around town. He said it took months to fact-check the photos and captions against newspaper clippings from the Washington Post or the Alexandria Gazette, and to visit the still-standing homes, driving there as many times as it took to get a picture without modern elements like trash bins or cars out front.
“It’s really amazing the number of homes that were around in that time and how many of them are still around if you look as you walk,” added Hix.
Today the map features everything from multi-family homes in the newly re-named Green Valley neighborhood, to houses with sweeping porches in Westover, as well as Ballston churches and Crystal City brick kilns.
“One of the things I like about this is that this is really throughout the county, not just the more fabled homes that we’re all familiar with, like the Glebe House” said Hix.
“We tried to get every neighborhood represented,” said Clark. “We wanted normal houses because a lot of the wealthy historic houses that have names — those are sort of twice-told tales.”
A preliminary site plan filing reviewed by ARLnow includes a 688,223 square-foot residential development in Crystal City — a pair of towers at 2000 and 2001 S. Bell Street — replacing an existing building at 2001 Richmond Highway and an adjacent parking lot.
That’s in addition to four other new, planned buildings — at 223 23rd Street S., 2300 Crystal Drive, and two towers at 2525 Crystal Drive — that were announced late Tuesday afternoon. In all, JBG Smith announced five new residential buildings and one office building — “all within a half mile of the Metro and Amazon’s new headquarters.”
The two S. Bell Street towers will be located across the street from one another on a new, re-aligned portion of Clark-Bell Street, bounded by 20th Street to the north and the newly renamed Richmond Highway to the west. The proposed buildings include a combined 762 housing units and 54,215 square feet of retail space.
Attorney Kedrick Whitmore of Venable LLC submitted JBG Smith’s site plans. In a letter, Whitmore wrote that the new development will bring an “infusion of new residents and mixed uses” that will “activate the existing fabric of Crystal City.”
Whitmore also noted new residents will create a stronger market for the retail spaces, which are struggling countywide to attract tenants.
The West tower’s units are a mix of one bedrooms (105), two bedrooms (69), and three bedrooms (39) with the majority being a smaller-sized one bedroom unit (145.)
Next door at 2001 S. Bell Street, JGB Smith is planning a 26-story tower with 403 units and 34,243 square feet of retail. This east tower will feature studio apartments (65), smaller-sized one bedrooms (155), regular one bedroom units (84), and two-bedroom units (99.)
Together the buildings will be served by a two-story underground parking garage with 314 spaces for cars.
JBG Smith’s attorney noted that the developer would be demolishing 185 existing parking spaces on the lot and adding 444 for an overall increase of 259 spaces — and resulting in a final parking ratio for cars of 0.34. The garage is also slated to include 330 bicycle parking spaces.
Coming between the two towers would be a new, merged S. Clark and S. Bell street, which is part of the Crystal City Sector Plan’s goal “to form a new north-south street between Jefferson Davis Boulevard and Crystal Drive.”
Arlington began demolishing the the S. Clark Street bridge over 18th Street S. in June as part of a larger $6 million project to bring Clark Street down to ground level and re-align the two streets together.
JBG Smith is proposing a new pedestrian walkway to the new street which wraps around the east tower.
The developer also submitted plans for an additional pair of buildings on the northwest corner of 23rd Street S. and Crystal Drive.
JBG Smith’s attorney wrote that the plan for the buildings will “include significant site improvements, including (but not limited to) partial implementation of realigned Clark-Bell Street, improved onsite circulation, street and sidewalk improvements along segments of 23rd Street and Crystal Drive, new interim public open space, and new infrastructure.”
Whitmore noted that the developments align with the Sector Plan‘s overall goals of transforming the area into an an “18-hour” neighborhood where people can work, live, and go out.
Also included in the new development plan are two towers at a listed address of 2525 Crystal Drive, which seemingly corresponds to the location of the JBG Smith-owned Crystal City sand volleyball courts and workout park, next to an off-ramp from Reagan National Airport.
Additional details on the new developments, however, including renderings and maps, were not immediately available due to confusion at the permit office caused by the county’s new digital permit submission system.
According to two permit staffers, JBG Smith did not correctly submit the site plans to the online system, resulting in the need for re-submission this (Wednesday) afternoon. Renderings of the new buildings and landscaping maps were also not publicly available by Tuesday afternoon.
JBG Smith’s latest slew of projects are in addition to its other plans in Crystal City and Pentagon City — which include redoing an office building (1770 Crystal Drive), adding new apartments to the Riverhouse complex, and building twin apartment towers at 1900 Crystal Drive.
Street View photo and map via Google Maps. Renderings via JBG Smith.