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Trees in Arlington (staff photo)

A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.

The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.

Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.

“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”

The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.

  • Arlington View
  • Aurora Highlands
  • Buckingham
  • Columbia Heights
  • Glebewood
  • Green Valley
  • John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
  • Long Branch Creek
  • Penrose
  • Radnor/Fort Myer Heights

The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.

“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.

EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.

The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.

Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.

Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.

“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.

Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.

“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”

Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.

But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.

“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.

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Morning Notes

SoberRide vehicle in Clarendon on Cinco de Mayo (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Interim Economic Development Chief — “Today, I am pleased to appoint Shannon Flanagan-Watson as the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), effective May 31. Shannon brings 28 years of combined experience working in and with local governments on a range of professional local government management and policy issues.” [Arlington County]

Shot Fired in Long Branch Creek — “1400 block of 28th Street S. At approximately 1:09 a.m. on May 5th, police were dispatched to multiple reports of shots heard in the area. Police canvassed the area and recovered evidence confirming a shot had been fired. The preliminary investigation indicates a verbal altercation between two subjects may have preceded the discharge of a firearm. No injuries were reported, and no property damage was located.” [APCD]

Netherlands Carillon Dedication — “Today, the National Park Service and Netherlands Embassy celebrated the 77th anniversary of Liberation Day and the end of a four-year restoration of the Netherlands Carillon. This celebration included remarks from Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands André Haspels and National Park Service Director Charles F. ‘Chuck’ Sams III.” [Press Release, NBC 4]

More Funding for Metro Entrance? — “Additional financial support for Arlington County’s proposed west entrance to the Ballston-MU Metro station looks to be on the horizon. A recommendation from staff at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission puts the request for an additional $4.5 million near the top of the list for regional projects that would be part of fiscal 2023-24 funding through the ‘I-66 Commuter Choice’ program.” [Sun Gazette]

Trying Out the Upton Hill Ropes Course — “Waiting in line to jump from the 50-foot apex of Climb UPton, Northern Virginia’s new ropes course, and trying desperately not to look down, I overhear three 10-year-old girls in front of me. ‘Are you scared?’ one asks… The $1.3 million ropes course opened last summer in Upton Hill Regional Park and is run by NOVA Parks. I recently attempted it on a sunny spring Saturday.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: Malibu Barbie Truck’s Visit — “On Saturday, May 7, the ‘Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Malibu Tour’ is planning on setting up shop at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) in the courtyard near DSW shoe store. The truck will be selling ‘retro-inspired’ Barbie merchandise — like Barbie logo embroidered denim jackets and Malibu Barbie necklaces — from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 58. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:07 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington police car at night (file photo courtesy Kevin Wolf)

(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) The neighborhoods around Gunston Middle School have again been the scene of a significant series of thefts from vehicles.

Thieves have repeatedly targeted the residential areas along 28th Street S., which connects the Long Branch Creek and Arlington Ridge neighborhoods, over the past month.

The latest involved the early morning theft of airbags from around 20 Honda vehicles, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report. Airbag thefts were also reported in the nearby Aurora Hills neighborhood, not far from Crystal City.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (Late) (Series), 2022-04280050/04280074, 1400 block of 28th Street S./600 block of 26th Street S. At approximately 5:47 a.m. on April 28, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny from auto. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that between approximately 4:49 a.m. on April 27 and 5:36 a.m. on April 28, the unknown suspect(s) forced entry into approximately 20 vehicles, all identified as Honda models, and stole airbags. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

It the third such reported theft series in the neighborhood in April. Others include:

  • Five vehicles were rummaged through after windows were smashed in Long Branch Creek and Arlington Ridge on April 25
  • At least one catalytic converter theft (out of three reported total) on April 20
  • Three vehicles were rummaged through after windows were smashed in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood on April 14

In November, sixteen vehicles in Long Branch Creek had their windows smashed in one presumed overnight crime spree.

Asked about the thefts and what specifically is being done in these neighborhoods to prevent additional crime sprees, a police spokeswoman provided some general information.

“Larcenies from auto, including thefts of airbags, catalytic converters, tires and rims, as well as thefts of valuables/keys from unlocked vehicles are recurring local and regional crime trends,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “As time and resources permit, officers conduct extra patrols in the areas of reported incidents.”

“The department’s efforts are enhanced by the active involvement of the community,” she continued. “Community members observing in-progress criminal activity should report for police investigation by contacting the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or dial 9-1-1 in an emergency.”

Savage also provided the following prime prevention tips.

Officers continue to share crime prevention information, including information on the 9 P.M. Routine, with community members and organizations in the areas of these incidents.

Additional crime prevention information related to larcenies from auto include:

  • Close and lock all windows and doors when you park. Pull on the door handle to verify it’s locked.
  • Park in well-lit areas and activate exterior lights at your home.
  • Take all valuables out of your vehicle.
  • Do not leave your keys, key fobs, or valet keys in your vehicle. This includes keys to a secondary vehicle.
  • Participate in the #9PMRoutine and encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do so too.

A follow up inquiry with Arlington County’s communications staff, with questions specific to the affected neighborhoods, yielded more detail about local outreach efforts.

“The incident summary from the Daily Crime Report and crime prevention tips have been shared by the ACPD Community Engagement Division with all civic association presidents as well as on all areas on Nextdoor,” wrote Bryna Helfer, Assistant County Manager and Director of Communications and Public Engagement. “This includes Long Branch Creek and Arlington Ridge civic associations as well as other areas in the County as [larcenies from auto] have been reported in nearly all neighborhoods across Arlington, typically during the overnight hours and can occur on any day of the week.”

ARLnow has not received a response to questions sent to the email address for the Long Branch Creek Civic Association. The neighborhood association’s Facebook page has been inactive for several years and its Yahoo Groups page appears to have been taken down.

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Police cars (file photo)

Arlington County police are investigating a series of several catalytic converter thefts.

The three vehicle break-ins and thefts were reported early Wednesday morning in three south Arlington neighborhoods: Pentagon City, Long Branch Creek and Columbia Heights.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

GRAND LARCENY AUTO/LARCENY FROM AUTO (Late) (Series), 2022-04200038/04200039/04200069, 1400 block of S. Walter Reed Drive/1500 block of 28th Street S./Army Navy Drive at S. Lynn Street. At approximately 5:45 a.m. on April 20, police were dispatched to the late report of a grand larceny auto in the 1400 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 7:00 p.m. on April 19 and 5:45 a.m. on April 20, the unknown suspect(s) stole the victim’s vehicle, which was later recovered in the 1600 block of S. Edgewood Street, broke the front passenger window and stole the catalytic converter. During the course of the investigation, it was determined two additional vehicles had front windows broken and the catalytic converter stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

A series of eight catalytic converter thefts was reported last month in the Fairlington neighborhood.

There have been numerous reports over the past few months of a rise in catalytic converter thefts in the D.C. area. The exhaust emission control devices are a popular target for thieves because they contain several valuable precious metals.

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Sixteen cars had windows smashed in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood earlier this week.

The smashing spree happened Monday morning along a two block stretch of S. Adams Street, in the neighborhood that’s located roughly between Pentagon City and Shirlington.

The suspect (or suspects) appears to have rummaged through the vehicles but no items were reported stolen.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY (Series), 2021-11150063/11150074, 2600 block and 2700 block of S. Adams Street. At approximately 10:26 a.m. on November 15, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property in the 2700 block of S. Adams Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim observed the front passenger window to her car had been smashed, but no items appeared to have been stolen. During the course of the investigation, seven additional vehicles were discovered to have had their windows smashed. At approximately 11:22 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property in the 2600 block of S. Adams Street. Upon arrival it was determined that eight vehicles had their windows smashed and items rummaged through. No items were reported stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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(Updated 4:25 p.m.) Local firefighters handle all sorts of hazards. Today, one such hazard was a flaming pile of garbage.

The rubish’s rapid oxidation happened around noon today in front of Gunston Middle School, near Arlington Ridge. The blazing bags of refuse were reportedly dumped by a trash truck after the driver noticed smoke and flames coming from the back.

“He dumped his load that was on fire,” a witness tells ARLnow. “He did the right thing. Saved his truck.”

The quick thinking spared the truck and a bigger conflagration, but it left big mess in the Gunston parking lot. Arlington and Alexandria firefighters worked to douse the combusting crud, leaving a soggy heap of waste to be cleaned up.

The trash fire, no doubt seen by a metaphor by some, was caught on camera by Washington Post media reporter Jeremy Barr.

Arlington County police blocked S. Lang Street, in front of the school, during the firefighting effort. A fire department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.

Later this afternoon, the county’s Department of Environmental Services shed some light on what likely caused the fire — rechargeable batteries tossed into a recycling bin — and provided some advice on how to properly recycle such batteries.

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A man who had his wallet stolen is facing charges after allegedly trying to confront someone he mistakenly thought was the thief.

The incident happened Sunday afternoon on the 1400 block of 28th Street S., near Gunston Middle School in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood.

“The suspect’s wallet and credit card had been stolen the day prior and he had noticed suspicious charges on his credit card,” Arlington County police said in a crime report. “The suspect went to a restaurant where his card had been used and followed a delivery driver to the home to confront the individual who had placed the order.”

“When the victim opened the door, the suspect allegedly brandished a firearm,” said ACPD. “The victim was able to close and lock the door. The investigation determined the victim did not use the suspect’s stolen credit card to place the order.”

A 27-year-old man from Stafford, Virginia was arrested and charged with brandishing a gun within 1000 feet of a school.

“The investigation into the fraud is ongoing,” police noted.

Monday’s crime report included another weekend brandishing, this time along Route 1 in the Crystal City area.

Just before 5 p.m. on Saturday a man in the drive-through line at McDonald’s allegedly became irate at the driver in front of him.

“The female victim was waiting in a drive-thru line when the suspect, who was behind her, began to honk his vehicle’s horn,” said ACPD. “He then approached her on the passenger side and brandished a firearm. The suspect then proceeded to exit the parking lot onto Richmond Highway.”

No injuries were reported. Police are continuing to investigate the incident.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Local Teacher Finalist in TV Contest — From Stacey Finkel, Kenmore Middle School PTA President: “Eurith Bowen, Functional Life Skills teacher at Kenmore Middle School, has been named a finalist for LIVE with Kelly and Ryan’s Top Teacher search. Eurith Bowen is a phenomenal educator who teaches from her heart, and has inspired an entire community to embrace students in a very special way. Eurith teaches students who are identified as having disabilities.” [Live with Kelly and Ryan]

Bridge Repair Work Underway — “Work is underway to rehabilitate the North Glebe Road (Route 120) bridge over Pimmit Run, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation… This summer, North Glebe Road between Military Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) will be closed for about nine days to efficiently replace the bridge deck and beams.” [VDOT]

Most Choosing In-Person Learning in Fall — From Superintendent Francisco Durán: “Based on preliminary results from the family selection process, an overwhelming number of families are choosing to return in person in the fall… Previous communications stated that we are planning for both normal capacities as well as developing contingency plans should 3-foot distancing be recommended; however, we want to be transparent that 3-foot distancing is not feasible with the enrollment we are anticipating.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Masks for Youth Sports Questioned — “An Arlington County softball dad created a petition to take on the county’s school system on sports and mask mandates. The school system’s spokesperson sent FOX 5 an emailed response on Tuesday, affirming student athletes will be required to wear masks during competition until the end of the school year… Nearly 300 people have signed the petition made for 500 signatures, calling for the Arlington County Public School’s Superintendent to drop the youth sport mask mandate.” [Fox 5]

Milk Spills into Stream from I-395 — “If you see a white substance in Long Branch Creek, don’t have a cow – it’s just spilled milk, according to the Arlington Fire Department. The department said an incident on Interstate 395 led to a milk truck leaking ‘approximately 50 gallons.’ According to a tweet, that milk has made it into Long Branch Creek near South Troy Street.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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After nearly seven years in South Arlington, the Maserati dealership at 2710 S. Glebe Road has closed its doors.

The dealership — located on a property that had earlier been home to seafood seller M. Slavin & Sons — is currently completely empty, with only Maserati and Alfa Romeo branding and an ironic “Now Open” sign.

The dealership began selling Fiats in 2016 and built a new, expanded facility the following year.

An employee at Maserati of Tysons (8448 Leesburg Pike) confirmed that the Arlington location closed and the Fairfax County location is now the closest Maserati dealer for Arlington residents.

The property, adjacent to I-395, may retain an automotive-related use, however. ARLnow hears that Tesla is considering leasing the building.

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It was President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s day, but for many, it was former First Lady Michelle Obama who stole the spotlight at the Inauguration.

Wearing all burgundy and plum ensemble in an outfit by LA-based designer Sergio Hudson, her bouncy curls matched the day’s mood. Quickly after Obama’s grand entrance, it was revealed by NBC 4’s Jummy Olabanji that the hair stylist behind her look was Arlington’s Yene Damtew.

The 2015 grad of Arlington’s Marymount University owns Aesthetics Salon at 2444 26th Road S., near the Glebe Road exit of I-395.

Damatew was one of a number of Black entrepreneurs, along with Hudson and Christy Rilling who designed the couple’s masks, that Obama has continuously sought to highlight.

But Damtew has worked with the former First Lady for more than a decade, having also styled her hair during her time in the White House and for best-selling 2018 memoir, “Becoming.”

ARLnow asked Damtew via email about how she became the former First Lady’s go-to hairstylist, what it was like on that special day, and what business been like since word got out.

The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

What’s the story behind styling Mrs. Obama’s hair for this inauguration? 

I have had a relationship with the Obamas since 2009. I was working for her then-stylist, Johnny Wright, and he brought me to the White House where I assisted with hair needs for the entire family.

Working in the White House for eight years was one of the highest honors of my life.

My relationship with Mrs. Obama has remained strong in her post-First Lady life. I’ve been blessed to stay on her style team along with my friends Carl Ray (makeup) and Meredith Koop (clothing). I did hair for her best-selling book “Becoming” and accompanied her on her two-year book tour across the world.

I consider her not just a client, but a friend and mentor.

What did you want to accomplish with her look? 

I do always keep in mind that America LOVES Mrs. Obama and she always makes headlines based on what she’s wearing and how her hair looks.

Today was a day about celebrating their good friends, the Bidens, and the first Black woman Vice President. I wanted her look to match the moment! Volume and curls seemed like the way to go and I’m glad so many people loved it.

How long did it take to style? 

I don’t talk specifics about any client, out of respect, but I’ve been doing hair long enough that I’m able to be very efficient!

I think I spent more time in the car navigating D.C. traffic and road shutdowns!

There were days in the White House and on the book tour where I would have to make changes very quickly. Once my client and I talk about what kind of look we want to create, it doesn’t take long.

Like with anything else the things that take the longest are sitting under the dryer with color treatments.

While it’s only been a few hours since the world found out, how has business been since? Is your salon being inundated with calls and appointments right now? 

It’s been overwhelming — in a good way!

Our website has been inundated with requests for appointments. We do everything via email, so our inbox is very full. We hope to get back to everyone by the end of the week. I

In only a few years, I’ve grown my salon from one building to two and have added several more stylists on staff.

Whether a client meets with me or one of my other stylists we want them to walk out of our doors feeling like they have the confidence they need to take on the day.

The Arlington community has been so wonderful and supportive to my salon. I graduated from Marymount University in Arlington and live in Arlington.

It was only right to have my business in Arlington, too.

Photo (top) via Aesthetics Salon

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A sequence of events led to the side of an apartment building in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood catching on fire Monday evening.

The Arlington County Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire on the 2400 block of 27th Court S. around 7:30 p.m. Residents were evacuated as firefighters worked to extinguish the smoky fire.

Within minutes, the flames were out and the cleanup work was starting.

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli tells ARLnow that the blaze was caused by “improperly discarded smoking materials” that caught mulch on fire and subsequently spread to the vinyl siding of the building. From there, the flames crept up the side of the building and burned the plywood under the siding.

The fire was quickly extinguished, no one was injured, and no residents were displaced. Tirelli said the incident “seems accidental” and no charges are pending.

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