Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Ballston Burglar Busted — “At approximately 6:41 p.m. on September 15, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside her residence when she observed the male suspect allegedly approach the door to the residence and attempt to force entry, causing damage. The suspect attempted to flee on foot prior to police arrival. Officers located the suspect in the area and he was positively identified.” [Arlington County]

N. Va. Locales Team Up to Lure More Employers — “Prompted partly by the success in luring Amazon, 10 Northern Virginia jurisdictions have formed an alliance to market themselves as a region to attract other companies, especially those in the high-tech arena. Instead of trying to poach businesses from each other, or promote themselves at their neighbors’ expense, they will compete mainly as a group against other major metropolitan areas such as Boston and Silicon Valley.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Housing Discrimination Forum Planned — “A coalition of organizations will look at the history of housing discrimination in Arlington in an upcoming forum. ‘The Color of Housing: The History of Racism in Housing in Arlington’ will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wakefield High School.” [InsideNova]

N. Arlington Couple’s Nomadic Adventure — “Journalist Dan Kois and his wife, attorney Alia Smith, felt that their busy, comfortable existence in North Arlington was stifling true connections with their young daughters. So they did what some Washington parents only dream of: They moved far away. Then they moved again. And again.” [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

Ovi Visits Local Elementary School — “In conjunction with the launch of Ovi O’s, Alex Ovechkin’s limited-edition breakfast cereal, the Washington Capitals’ captain surprised Arlington Traditional School, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and a local Giant store with a visit on Sept. 10.” [NHL]

9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Courthouse — “Officials in Northern Virginia held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Sen Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, military commanders, local Arlington County officials and members of the Virginia House attended the remembrance ceremony on Arlington County government plaza.” [NBC 4, WUSA 9]

Local Leaders Set Housing Goals — “Local governments around Greater Washington now plan to set targets for housing production over the next decade, as part of a regional initiative to build 320,000 new homes by 2030 and ease the region’s cost pressures.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

ACPD Plans ‘Coffee With a Cop’ — “Wednesday, October 2 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting four events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at these informal events to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]

Orthopaedic Office Celebrates Grand Opening — “Ortho OIC Orthopaedic Immediate Care, the area’s first independent orthopaedic specialty urgent care… will be holding a grand opening event on September 19 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony.” [Press Release]

Farewell, Subway-Centric Paper — “The Washington Post is closing down its free daily commuter paper, Express, this week. The final edition of Express will be published on Thursday. The staff learned of the news at a meeting at noon on Wednesday.” [DCist]

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Arlington County’s zoning office is undertaking a study to find new ways to encourage affordable housing growth in the county.

The study aims to update the Housing Conservation District (HCD) report — a document which lays out measures to preserve units of affordable housing in several, specially-designated areas across the county.

Zoning staff are currently considering several new “zoning and financial incentives,” like:

  • Allowing developers to add more units to a building, or construct a second building on a property, if the developer reserves some units for affordable housing
  • Changing some zoning rules about setbacks or maximum building heights to make it easier to replace older affordable housing buildings
  • Adopting tax benefits for properties with affordable housing

The 12 areas in Arlington that form the HCD include Leeway Overlee, Glebewood, Waverly Hills, Spout Run/Lyon Village, North Highlands, Westover, Lyon Park, Penrose, Shirlington, and Long Branch Creek.

The original draft of the HCD in 2017 aimed to prevent developers from tearing down older homes in favor of new townhouses.

Earlier this year, the county announced a new “Housing Arlington” initiative to help the county meets its goal of creating 15,800 affordable units by 2040. At the time, staff noted lower-income residents face a housing squeeze given that the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,000, and Arlington lost 17,000 market-rate housing units since 2005.

The new study is expected to be completed by early 2020.

County staff are also currently undertaking a study about ways to make it easier to build new elder care facilities, such as allowing developers to build the facilities in more places around Arlington than currently permitted via zoning.

Image (top) via Arlington TV

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Developer JBG Smith says it has submitted new plans for a major redevelopment of its RiverHouse apartment property in Pentagon City, four blocks from Amazon’s new HQ2.

The developer announced today (Monday) that it submitted a site plan application to Arlington County to build about 1,000 new housing units along S. Joyce Street. The units will be in two, six-story apartment buildings, as well as traditional townhouses and maisonettes, per the press release, and about 260 of the units will be available for purchase.

The six-story buildings will have mix of units, including studios and three-bedroom units, for a combined total of 750 units. These two buildings will be constructed on the parkings lots in the northern end of the site and will feature central courtyards, and 30,000 square feet of “community-oriented street-level retail, including a potential daycare center and medical office, at the base of the two new buildings.”

The townhouses will be built on “underutilized” surface parking lots in the southern end of the site, facing the Aurora Highlands neighborhood and its single-family homes, JBG said

The extensive, 36-acre RiverHouse property is on a long lot bordered by Army Navy Drive, S. Joyce Street, 16th Street S., S. Arlington Ridge Road, and S. Lynn Street, at the edge of what’s being called “National Landing” — the recently-created term for the Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods.

Currently, RiverHouse has three apartment towers built in the 1950s and 1960s, with a combined 1,670 apartment units. JBG Smith intends to keep the three towers, per the press release, and will instead construct the new buildings around the existing towers.

JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn said in a statement that the developer aimed to design a plan that “respects and complements the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhoods while creating a more cohesive sense of community.”

“We also focused on providing a wide range of rental and for-sale housing opportunities that meet the differing needs of Arlington’s diverse and growing residential population,” he said. “It is our goal to deliver additional housing units concurrent with Amazon’s occupancy of its new headquarters to help meet anticipated new housing demand and mitigate upward pressure on rents in National Landing.”

Vornado — which was later acquired by JBG Smith — had planned to redevelop RiverHouse with more than 1,000 rental apartments in three, mid-rise towers. The new submission, which JBG Smith says is “consistent with the Crystal City/Pentagon City Sector Plan which calls for 7,500 additional housing units by 2040,” supersedes the previous, pre-HQ2 plan.

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Morning Notes

Arlington GOP Not As Interested in Local — “The Arlington County Republican Committee’s efforts to regain a toehold in local governance may continue to suffer from a general disinterest in local affairs from many within the party’s rank and file.” [InsideNova]

Housing Initiative Getting Underway — “Arlington County has a shortage of homes, and with Amazon moving in, that pressure is only increasing. Now the county is asking residents about their housing needs and their ideas to address the crunch as part of its Housing Arlington initiative announced earlier this year.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Women of Vision Winners — Arlington County has named the three honorees of its 2019 Arlington County Women of Vision awards: long-time Arlington County housing staffer Melodee Melin, Clarendon Childcare Center director Sandra Redmore, and Virginia Equal Rights Coalition founder Julia Tanner. [Arlington County]

Bike Theft Reminder — On Friday, two men were taken into custody after a foot pursuit and search on suspicion of stealing bicycles in the Clarendon area, according to Arlington County Police. It serves as a reminder for Arlington residents to register bikes for free with the police department. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Wardian Now Racing Horses — “Michael Wardian has finished the Boston Marathon 18 times. He holds the world record for fastest 50-kilometre run on a treadmill. This year he raced 631 miles across Israel in barely 10 days’ time… The Arlington, Virginia, runner will be one of 650 or so humans and five dozen horses racing against each other in the annual Man Versus Horse Marathon on Saturday.” [National Post]

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Morning Notes

County Auditor Probes Police Overtime — “A performance audit conducted by the County Auditor as part of his Fiscal Year 2018 work plan found that the Arlington County Police Department’s overtime costs exceeded budgeted expenses in Fiscal Years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The audit did not identify any evidence of improper overtime.” [Arlington County]

Few Fireworks in School Board Race — “A relatively low-key race for the Democratic endorsement leading into November’s School Board race is headed to three days of caucus voting, with the two candidates focused more on the issues than landing body blows on each other. ‘I would prefer to talk about how we are going to move in a positive direction in the future,’ challenger David Priddy said when asked to lay out the biggest failures of the School Board during the period incumbent Reid Goldstein has served on it.” [InsideNova]

ACPD and Mental Health Awareness Month — “In 2018, the Arlington County Police Department responded to 2,227 calls for service involving individuals in mental health crisis — a figure that has risen each year since 2015. To increase awareness about Department initiatives and resources, we are sharing information about how we interact with the public, and how we are ensuring that our officers have the resources they need to continue to provide professional police services to our community.” [Arlington County]

School Board Member Endorses Tafti — Arlington School Board member Monique O’Grady has endorsed Commonwealth’s Attorney challenge Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in her race against incumbent Theo Stamos. [Facebook]

Launch of ‘Housing Arlington’ — “Go bigger. Be bolder. We’ve heard from Arlingtonians that housing affordability — rental & ownership — demands even more aggressive solutions. So we’re launching ‘Housing Arlington’ tonight to tackle the challenge — together.” [Twitter]

Arlington Firm Acquires Health Insurance Company — “Arlington health system consultancy Evolent Health Inc. has reached a deal to take majority ownership of a Kentucky health insurance provider… Evolent’s stock price dipped more than 28% to $10.15 per share in Wednesday afternoon trading on the news.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Many Arlington homeowners can now build backyard cottages, thanks to a vote from the County Board.

Board members unanimously voted to loosen zoning regulations on so-called detached “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) during their Saturday meeting. The vote came after a contentious discussion with residents who said they feared the impacts of greater density and fewer trees in their neighborhoods.

“I am very pleased to support this motion for the benefits I think we’re going to see,” Board member Erik Gutshall said. “In my view the benefits far outweigh the potential impacts. To me it’s about housing. Period.”

Board members have long eyed small backyard homes as a way to help increase the county’s available affordable housing stock.

The newly amended zoning rules allow Arlington homeowners to build detached ADUs on their property without first seeking county permission to do so — as long as it’s a one-family property. Previously, homeowners could only build an ADU inside their house (such as an English basement) or convert an existing outside structure into one.

Now, homeowners can build an ADU on an interior lot as long as the structure is at least 5 feet away from the property lines. ADUs built on corner lots must sit 5 feet from the side yard line and 10 feet from the rear yard line.

Previously, the County Board debated whether to allow 1-foot setback distances, but members ultimately nixed the idea, citing privacy concerns between neighbors and the fact it would only increase the number of ADU-eligible properties by 2 percent.

The exact distance didn’t matter to Urban Forestry Commission member Phil Klingelhofer, who said Saturday he had “serious concerns” about allowing any detached ADUs because laying sewer lines and footings anywhere could hurt the county’s tree canopy coverage.

“I want to make sure that we’re not… losing the forest for the trees,” Board member Katie Cristol replied. “Nationally, the biggest driver of emission and therefore climate change is sprawl development.”

Previously, several members of the activist Arlington Tree Action Group cited concerns about ADU construction killing trees and adding impervious surfaces to the county, which is already at a higher risk of floods.

Among the opponents was former County Board member John Vihstadt, who said the measure was part of a bigger mismanagement of density and natural resources.

“We must do better with managing our growth,” he said.

County Housing Planner Joel Franklin said since Jan 1, 2018, the county has approved 10 requests to build ADUs, three of which were converting existing structures into detached backyard cottage-style units.

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After a long renovation, the Windsor at Shirlington Village apartment complex, at 3000 S. Randolph Street, is being rebranded as The Citizen.

The apartment complex is planning a grand reopening celebration on Thursday (May 16) to celebrate the completion of property-wide upgrades at the community. Move-ins for the facility are scheduled to start on May 31.

The Windsor was originally built in the 1990s and was purchased by Chicago firm Waterton for $144 million in 2017, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Renovations include new apartments with new smart home technology, full washer and dryers and new kitchen appliances.

The leasing center, conference area and cyber café were all renovated as well. The small gym in the apartment complex was upgraded into a 7,000 square foot fitness center with a racquetball court and treadmills.

Apartments range from $2,155-$2,800 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Two to three bedroom units are also available.

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Morning Notes

Rescuers Searching for Vehicle in the Water — “A vehicle apparently went into the water Sunday night near Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River, and a search was still under way Monday morning, authorities said. The search was being conducted near the island’s parking lot, according to the D.C. Fire and EMS Department. A witness reported that the vehicle went into the water.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Amazon Less Worried About HQ2 Housing Impact — “Amazon said its second headquarters in Arlington will not aggravate housing problems as much as the company has in Seattle because it will be able to plan for growth here in a way that it couldn’t in earlier years in its home base. Jay Carney, a senior vice president with the online retail giant, also said the company chose the Washington region for HQ2 and its 25,000 jobs partly because it is ‘a much more racially diverse area than the Pacific Northwest.'” [Washington Post]

Amazon’s Transformative Effect on Crystal City — “All of this points toward a vision of the future that was far-fetched even a few years ago: Crystal City as a place people would want to remain in after 5 p.m.” [Washingtonian]

County Had Cozy Emails with JBG Smith — “In a Dec. 6 email to Andy VanHorn, the executive vice president at JBG Smith Properties overseeing the development of Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, Schwartz pledged open and unfettered access to a roster of key county officials charged with overseeing the various pieces of the approval process.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Unemployment Rate: 2.1% — “Arlington will have to share the title of lowest jobless rate in Virginia for at least a month. With 150,932 county residents in the civilian workforce and 3,216 looking for jobs, Arlington’s unemployment rate for March stood at 2.1 percent, unchanged for a month before and tied with the adjacent city of Falls Church as lowest among the commonwealth’s 133 cities and counties.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Arrested After Police Chase — “An Arlington resident was arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing a Porsche and leading Fairfax County police on a chase through Tysons.” [Tysons Reporter]

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A new county initiative aims to help find ways to solve Arlington’s affordable housing shortage.

County Manager Mark Schwartz introduced “Housing Arlington” during Thursday night’s Arlington County Board meeting. Billed as an “umbrella initiative” for the county’s existing affordable housing programs, Schwartz said it will help officials and the public brainstorm solutions together.

During presentations Thursday night, county staff said Arlington has lost 17,000 market-rate housing units since 2005. With 58,000 more residents expected by 2045 and current rent for a 2 bedroom apartment averaging $3,000 per month, they said the squeeze for affordable housing is likely to worsen.

“If we are successful in this event, we will create and preserve more housing for Arlington residents,” said the Housing Division Chief David Cristeal.

The county currently creates affordable housing in a couple ways, including by subsidizing its construction with the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund (AHIF) and by subsidizing rent for low-income residents.

In 2015, the county officials pledged to create 15,800 affordable housing units before 2040, but have since fallen short of the yearly creation benchmarks.

“Housing Arlington is different first because it’s a County Board priority to bring solutions sooner… and the expectations are higher,” said Cristeal, adding that the initiative means the Arlington will be “even more focused on this challenge” and will be “more proactive” in collaborating between public and private sectors.

The initiative will focus on addressing the shortage of affordable homes for low-income and middle-income residents, per its website, and plans to leverage the county’s existing housing programs along with zoning tools and private-public partnerships to accomplish that goal.

Schwartz noted during last night’s meeting that Arlington’s “dilemmas of costly housing can’t, and should not, be solved with AHIF funding.”

He added that the money he and the County Board increased for AHIF’s budget this year “is a really good step” but that “it will never meet the full scope of the need.”

“We know residents across generations are facing pressures from multiple angles, and this interconnected solution allows our community to be responsive and efficient,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey in a press release.  The challenges don’t exist in silos and their solutions don’t either.”

Schwartz says the public has submitted ideas to the county before which are now research-able due to the Housing Arlington initiative. The ideas include:

  • Can publicly-funded housing be created specifically for teachers?
  • Should individuals let public safety staff live in accessory dwellings on their property?

Schwartz mentioned the initiative was also a response to the  “strong headwinds” the county faces in addressing affordable housing with Amazon coming to town.

The hearing to approve Amazon’s incentive package was dogged by activists who fear the company’s “HQ2” will hasten gentrification. Several residents shared how their rent has already increased since the company scouted its new headquarters in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

“What I’m sensing is a real concern about loss and vulnerability,” Dorsey during the March hearing in between protests.. At the time, Dorsey added that the “the history” of Arlington neighborhoods was that of gentrification and increasing property values.

“We never really had a way to stop it,” Dorsey said.

The Housing Arlington initiative will be housed in the Housing Division of the county’s Community Planning, Housing and Development Department (CPHD), per its website. Funding details for the new initiative were not shared.

The Housing Arlington initiative is scheduled to hold its first public engagement forum at Kenmore Middle School on Wednesday, May 29 from 6-9 p.m.

Flickr photo via woodleywonderworks

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations

Crystal City-based startup 4stay aims to help more students find affordable housing with ambitious plans to quintuple their current reach, thanks to some new funding.

On the heels of raising $1 million in angel investments, last week the state-funded nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) announced that its CIT GAP Funds would be investing in 4stay, according to a press release. The size of the investment was not disclosed.

“As someone who has worked in student housing for almost 10 years and lived the pain of many housing challenges, we have seen firsthand the difficulties and frustrations of looking for housing on college campuses,” Akobir Azamovich, co-founder and CEO of 4stay, said in the press release. “4stay is solving these challenges by providing an online marketplace to book furnished rooms around campuses. We also provide $100K insurance, host pay guarantee, and zero deposit to protect students, parents, and hosts.”

The site’s functionality is similar to rental site Airbnb, with students searching for available off-campus housing based on a variety of factors like the number of roommates or length of stay. Types of homes range from apartments to basement rooms in someone’s house, but all locations are required to be fully furnished with students having a bedroom of their own.

“We are grateful for the support of CIT GAP Funds, whose investment will help us further the acceleration of our product development as well as help spread the word through increased marketing efforts,” said Faridun Nazarov, co-founder and COO.

The company currently partners with over 100 schools, but with the CIT investment announced plans to bring on an additional 500 schools over the next 12-18 months. Part of the expansion plans include opening up in new student housing markets in Canada and Europe.

Upcoming offerings planned for the site include features to match users with other residents and the ability to book with room providers like school dorms or student housing companies.

Photo via Facebook

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