Arlington County Board members wrestled last night with a plan to substitute car parking spaces for spots for bike and car-sharing at new apartment and condo buildings near Metro stations.
The proposal, put together by county staff as part of a number of changes to parking policy under discussion at a Tuesday work session, is meant to encourage developers to contribute to other transit options.
Staff recommended that a developer providing a Capital Bikeshare station could substitute that for for up to four car parking spaces, depending on its size, or bike parking could be exchanged for two parking spaces. One car-sharing space, provided for a private company like Zipcar, could be in place of five spots.
But Board members questioned why the provision for different transit means is tied to reducing car parking spaces, especially near Metro stations, as adding such amenities is becoming a more standard practice in developments across the region.
“It bothers me that going to suggest that we’re not going to get these things until we go down to the minimum [parking ratio],” said Board chair Jay Fisette. “These are things that should be part of every site plan.”
Among the other recommendations put forward by staff, developers could request fewer parking spaces the closer a property is to a Metro station, with some committed affordable housing units not being required to have any parking spaces if they are within an eighth of a mile of a station.
Board member John Vihstadt argued that orienting the changes in parking policy around Metro, which would allow developers to provide fewer spaces at new buildings if they are close to a station, might be misguided given the drop in ridership due to the system’s ongoing safety concerns and year-long SafeTrack rebuilding program.
Vihstadt said that drop in ridership was “casting a pall” over the discussion, but county transportation director Dennis Leach said it was important to attract residents to such buildings who “build a lifestyle” around Metro. Vihstadt requested further data on the county’s declining ridership, which Leach said has also been hampered by more teleworking and other factors.
A major addition by staff to a report in March, by a residential parking working group on the new parking policy, is a requirement that developers provide for dedicated visitor parking.
Stephen Crim, a parking planner in the county’s Department of Environmental Services, said that change came after concerns from nearby residents that cars would park on their residential streets, especially those of visitors who have few options.
Leach noted that the parking garages in neighborhoods like Crystal City and Pentagon City are under-utilized, especially by visitors, and that DES could do even more to promote use of those spaces alongside the various Business Improvement Districts in the county.
Staff and County Board members agreed that while the policy still needs work before approval, it is aspirational and designed to attract residents who would prefer to have minimal, if any, car use.
“We are all seeking to hasten a future that we are interested in, which is a more multimodal corridor especially with fewer cars and more people taking alternatives to the extent that it suits them and choices that allow them to do so,” said Board vice chair Katie Cristol.
A plan to revamp Interstate 66 is threatening the character of the Custis Memorial Parkway, the highway’s name inside the Capital Beltway, historic preservation advocates said today (Wednesday).
Preservation Arlington, a nonprofit group that looks to protect Arlington’s architectural heritage, released its annual list of “endangered historic places,” with the parkway named as one.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the midst of an ambitious plan known as “Transform 66” to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston within the existing eastbound right-of-way.
But Preservation Arlington said the plan could undermine “the roadway’s unique parkway design.”
“Plantings are no longer maintained. Corten steel guardrails and sign supports are being replaced with standard, steel interstate highway components,” the group wrote. “The new toll road gantries, and large, new sign supports (and highway signage) on nearby arterial roads have further eroded the parkway’s ability to blend into its surroundings.”
Another piece of history under threat, according to Preservation Arlington, are the Education Center and Planetarium, chosen last week by the Arlington County School Board for an extra 500-600 high school seats and a renovation.
“While some exterior improvements will be necessary it is hoped that this will be minimal and will not alter the appearance of the historic structure,” Preservation Arlington wrote. “Designed as a headquarters building to show the strength and commitment to education, the building is iconic in our community.”
Also under threat, according to Preservation Arlington:
- 1000-series Metro cars, retired this month for safety reasons
- Community buildings like those for churches and service organizations
- Four Mile Run industrial area
- Housing stock from before World War II, with the continued loss of these homes “erasing Arlington’s architectural and community history.”
Image via VDOT presentation
Home Demolition Stats — So far in 2017, there have been 66 demolition permits for single-family homes applied for in Arlington, according to the group Preservation Arlington. Twenty-two permits were applied for in May alone. [Preservation Arlington]
Linden Combining With Melwood — Arlington-based Linden Resources is linking up with Maryland-based Melwood “to create one of the largest regionally focused nonprofits with more than $100 million in joint revenue.” The organizations provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. [Washington Business Journal]
Best of Ballston Awards — Cybraics, a company focused on fighting cybercrime, won the Innovation Award at the inaugural Best of Ballston Awards last week. [Ballston BID]
Flickr pool photo by GM and MB
Arlington County will not be asked to pay for more from its local coffers to cover dramatic funding hikes for Metro, the agency’s general manager promised Tuesday night.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said he hoped to cap any requests for increased contributions from the various jurisdictions that make up the transit authority at 3 percent per year.
More money for Metro was a factor in the Arlington County Board’s decision to hike property taxes by 1.5 cents, meaning residents can expect to pay an extra $277 on average. Arlington will contribute $70.7 million for FY 2018, compared to $56.6 million in FY 2017.
And while Wiedefeld’s pledge does not rule out Arlington’s contribution rising, it would be a lower increase than the 23.85 percent hike taxpayers funded for Metro’s fiscal 2018 budget.
Wiedefeld, during his presentation to the County Board, said smart fiscal management would avoid asking jurisdictions for more money, as would a new dedicated revenue source. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments adopted a resolution earlier this month calling for a dedicated funding source, but it would need buy-in from Maryland and Virginia’s state assemblies as well as D.C.’s government.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette said the FY 2018 contribution was a “big number for a locality like Arlington,” and said he welcomed a cap on funding.
Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol said she was “delighted to see [the promised funding cap] having just gone through a pretty difficult budget process and like many other jurisdictions are struggling with the idea of trying to do that again.”
Wiedefeld also promised that local riders of the Blue and Yellow lines would see more frequent trains as Metro looks to adjust its rail service, starting June 25. He said that the plan is for the Blue Line to arrive on platforms every eight minutes during rush hour, instead of every 12 minutes, as is current practice to accommodate the Silver Line.
Board member John Vihstadt pointed out that riders of the Blue and Yellow Lines in Arlington might have “a little different perspective” on Metro’s reliability from those who use the Orange and Silver Lines in the county.
“I think we have to roll this out in June, let’s start to rebuild the base around that, deliver that and be much more consistent in that service, and then as we start to get better and better we can look at ways we can expand that,” Wiedefeld said. “But we have to start with looking at the realities of where we are.”
On ARLnow’s 26 Square Miles podcast last week, County Board and Metro board member Christian Dorsey said that while Metro still has work to do to increase reliability, delays have decreased as SafeTrack has wrapped up.
Christian Dorsey joined the County Board in 2016 and now also represents Arlington on the WMATA Board.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked to Dorsey about whether SafeTrack and new train cars are improving Metro. We also discussed schools, parks, land use, development, the Shirlington Dog park controversy, issues with the Arlington Way, gentrification, affordable housing, and a proposed pedestrian walk from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport.
‘Love Letters’ Along the Pike — The “Virginia Is For Lovers” tourism campaign has installed the person-sized letters “LOVE” along S. Walter Reed Drive, ahead of this weekend’s Columbia Pike Blues Festival. [Facebook]
News Orgs Confuse Arlington and Alexandria — A number of news organizations mistakenly stated that yesterday’s shooting in Alexandria happened in “Arlington, Virginia.” Though somewhat inexplicable, the confusion happens frequently. [Twitter]
Regional Metro Tax Mulled — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has approved a series of principles that could be the basis for a region-wide tax that can provide dedicated funding for Metro. Without it, WMATA says it will face budget shortfalls by 2019. [WTOP]
Free Donuts Today — Today, June 2, is National Donut Day. To celebrate, Dunkin’ Donuts and Duck Donuts are offering a free donut with the purchase of any beverage. Sugar Shack is offering a free donut for those who wear a Sugar Shack hat, t-shirt or other article of clothing with the company logo. [Dunkin’ Donuts, Duck Donuts, Facebook]
Stabbing on Columbia Pike — Arlington County Police are investigating a stabbing that occurred near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Rolfe Street early this morning. The victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. [Fox 5, WJLA, ACPD]
Owner Wants Out of Ray’s Hell Burger Lease — Michael Landrum, owner of Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger, wants out of the Hell Burger lease at 1650 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The restaurant closed and went on “hiatus” last month. Landrum’s company owes the landlord just over $300,000, according to a bankruptcy filing. [Washington Business Journal]
Why Arlington and Alexandria Couldn’t Collaborate on a Pool — Sharing the costs of an indoor aquatics center seemed like a good idea in theory, but ultimately those in Alexandria did not like the idea of using their taxpayer dollars to build a pool in Arlington. Now Arlington’s planned Long Bridge aquatics center is moving forward while Alexandria’s plans to build an indoor pool are on hold. [Washington Post]
New Tenants to the Rescue in Courthouse — “Adding Reston-based VideoBlocks to its tenant roster was a good get for the owners of Courthouse Tower, but as it turns out, the lease was part of a larger plan to avoid letting about three quarters of the building’s office space go dark.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro ‘Prepares for Life After SafeTrack’ — We’re a day and a half into June and there have been no major Metro service disruptions so far, something the transit agency hopes is the norm. From a press release: “As the yearlong SafeTrack program winds down, Metro is preparing for a new era of less disruptive preventive maintenance and planned capital work to ensure that the rail system remains in a reliable state for years to come.” [WMATA]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Arlington residents can expect to pay an extra $277 on average in property taxes after the County Board approved a 1.5-cent tax increase for fiscal year 2018.
The tax hike, less than the Board’s advertised maximum raise of 2 cents, will help fund Arlington Public Schools and Metro. APS will receive an extra $23.3 million, while Metro will get more than $14 million more, meaning Arlington’s contribution to its operating budget will be $71 million a year.
“This budget is a compromise and a consensus of the Board, and reflects the values of this community,” said Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board agreed to a modest increase in the property tax rate — less than the [County] Manager recommended — because of the extraordinary funding needs of Metro and our public schools.”
Residents will see several fees increase too. The household solid waste rate will increase by $6.88 a year to $314.16 annually, while the water/sewer rate will increase to $13.62 per thousand gallons. The Residential Utility Tax will see a hike too, while a new $60 accessory homestay permit fee has been added for those who wish to use services like Airbnb to let others stay in their homes.
The Board also hold a public hearing in May on proposed fare increases for Arlington Transit (ART) and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents (STAR), the county’s transit service for the disabled. Board members said increases are consistent with Metrobus fare increases, and would help with rising operating costs.
Also included in the $1.5 billion is an extra $1.3 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, taking its total in the budget to just over $15 million. The County Board also approved hiring seven new sheriff’s deputies, three more emergency call takers and three police patrol officers. The sheriff hirings will be phased over several years.
Among other programs to receive extra funding were the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and the Lee Highway Alliance. The latter had been slated for a budget cut alongside other programs, but last month supporters spoke against that plan.
The Board also provided $100,000 to fund groups that help assist undocumented County residents, families with mixed immigration status and refugees.
At its meeting Saturday, Board members also gave the green light to a 3.5 percent pay increase for all county employees, including themselves. Under the plan, Board members’ pay would rise to $53,282, with the chair’s pay at $59,610.
Board member John Vihstadt (I) tried to separate discussion of other county employees’ raises from talk of Board members’ increases, as he said it would make the talks more transparent.
“I just find it a little anomalous that at the very time we are going to be imposing a fairly sizable property tax increase, which I am voting for, that we’re able to find the money ourselves to help us cope with that increase, but the community doesn’t have such a luxury or advantage,” he said. “I oppose us giving ourselves our own pay raise like this.”
But other Board members objected, and questioned why that issue was raised so late in the game.
“There were so many other important things that we dealt with, and this is 100 percent political posturing that is disappointing to me,” Fisette said. The pay raises passed together with Vihstadt’s abstaining, and he promised to donate the extra money he will receive to charity.
New apartment and condo buildings close to Metro stations in Arlington could have fewer parking spaces, and more spaces for bikes and car-sharing services, under a recommendation by a county working group.
The group is made up of residents and other stakeholders, and came together in 2016 to work on a policy to guide county staff on required parking for new apartment and condo buildings.
Staff is now asking for feedback on those recommendations in an online survey, which is open through April 18.
The group’s first recommendation was to reduce the number of spaces available depending on how close a new building is to a Metro station. According to the final report, members were split evenly on how low that parking ratio of units to spaces should be.
One proposal would have 0.4 parking spaces per unit for a building less than one-eighth of a mile from a Metro station, and up to 0.8 parking spaces per unit for a building less than a mile away. The other would have even fewer spaces per unit.
The working group also recommended that if developers provide parking spaces for bicycles and car-sharing, they should be permitted to reduce vehicle parking spaces. The group said that providing 10 bicycle parking spaces should allow two fewer vehicle spots, while adding a Capital Bikeshare station and paying for its upkeep should mean up to four fewer spaces.
Committed affordable housing units would also see lower parking ratios if close to Metro, due to what the report said is lower demand for parking spaces.
Units priced at 40 percent of area median income would not be required to provide any parking spaces, while affordable homes at 60 percent AMI would be required to provide 0.7 spaces per unit.
Other recommendations include a one-time payment by developers for “excess” parking, expanding shared parking on-site, and permitting developers to provide 100 percent of parking off-site, provided it is no further than 800 feet from the building and is secured for at least 10 years.
Metro Station Manager Arrested — A Metro station manager at the Pentagon has been arrested and charged with assaulting a fellow employee. The fight happened Wednesday afternoon inside the station manager’s kiosk, police say. [Washington Post]
Yorktown Grad’s Music Video Goes Viral — Budding hip-hop artist Hovey Benjamin has tallied nearly 1.5 million YouTube views of his new, NSFW music video. Benjamin lived in Arlington and attended Yorktown High School and Virginia Commonwealth University before moving to Los Angeles and signing a record deal. [Real House Life of Arlington, Uproxx]
New Condo and Townhouse Sales Center — Sponsored — Learn about all of the newest and most well-appointed properties in Arlington and DC without the hassle of finding all the information for yourself. Stop by the Sales Center this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. to learn about amenities, features, floor plans, fees, available units, and everything else you could ever want to know about all the condo buildings in the area. Located at 1600 Wilson Blvd. [Keri Shull Team]
Dozens of Arlington Runners Competing in Boston — Seventy-six Arlington runners will be shipping up to Boston next month for the Boston Marathon, one of the sport’s most prestigious races. The field includes local running superstar Michael Wardian, who is also competing in this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon. [InsideNova]
CERT Training Still Open — A few spaces are still available in Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team spring training class. The eight-session, 26-hour course begins next week. [Arlington CERT]
Library Exhibit on Baltic WW2 Refugees — Arlington Public Library is hosting an exhibit through April 17 on Baltic refugees from World War II. “‘No Home To Go To’ is the story of people living in refugee camps and finding a home in a new land, as told through their memories, documents, photographs, and memorabilia,” according to the library website. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Metro’s next SafeTrack “surge” will include a temporary shutdown of the entire Blue Line, starting Saturday.
Blue Line trains will not run at all between Feb. 11-28, according to Metro. Instead, Yellow Line “Rush Plus” trains will run all day between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt. Those trains will run in addition to regular Yellow Line trains between Huntingdon and Mount Vernon Square.
The Arlington Cemetery station will be closed and will be served by buses from the Pentagon during the latest round of maintenance work.
During rush hour, trains are scheduled to arrive every four minutes at stations normally served by both Blue and Yellow Line trains, Metro said. Orange and Silver Line trains will not be affected by the latest track maintenance effort.
Metro originally planned to only run Blue Line trains between the Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport stops. But the transit agency updated that plan on Jan. 27 after concluding the original one wasn’t necessarily “in the interest of minimizing customer impact.”
“The new service plan means that riders from Virginia will experience less crowding and will be able to ride into D.C. without changing trains,” the agency said in a release.
Next month, track work will primarily affect riders heading to and from Alexandria. From March 4-26, Metro trains will share a single track on the Blue and Yellow lines between the Braddock Road and Huntington/Van Dorn Street stations. Blue Line trains will run every 24 minutes during that time, while the Yellow Line between National Airport and Mt. Vernon Square will run every 6-12 minutes, according to Metro.
From March 26 through April 2, only Blue Line Trains will share a single track. Then, from April 3-9, Yellow Line trains are slated for single-tracking.
Later this year, likely around May and June, a portion of the Orange Line between the Minnesota Avenue and New Carrollton stops is also scheduled to undergo maintenance and single tracking. The SafeTrack program is currently slated to wrap up in late June, though the final dates haven’t yet been announced.
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld last year announced a $3.1 billion “reality check” budget that includes fare hikes, longer wait times and cuts to bus routes throughout the D.C. area.
Among other changes in the 2018 fiscal year budget, riders would have to pay an additional 10 to 25 cents more for train and bus trips.
Metro would also consider eliminating the following routes that run through Arlington:
- 5A D.C.-Dulles
- 13Y Arlington-Union Station
- 15K, L Chain Bridge Road
- 17 A, B, F, M Kings Park
- 18 P, R, S Burke Centre
- 28X Leesburg Pike
The proposal would also modify the 16H Columbia Heights West-Pentagon City route to “provide two-way service 7 days a week between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. with service every 10 minutes during weekday rush hours and service every 20 minutes at other times,” Metro said. The 16G and 16K would be eliminated.
Additionally, the proposed budget could shorten the 16X Columbia Pike-Federal Triangle route by eliminating service between between the Pentagon Transit Center and the Federal Triangle Metro Station.
Metro riders gathered at the transit agency’s headquarters last night to weigh in on the proposed cuts. Some daily commuters pleaded with Metro officials not to cut their stops, according to WAMU.
Still, the agency must plug a budget gap of about $290 million, a number it said was “larger than recent years due to growing expenses to operate and maintain the system, and declining ridership.”
Riders who want to weigh in on the proposed changes have until 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 6 to do so. Those interested can also fill out a survey to tell the agency how they feel about the budget.
Abingdon Closed Due to Asbestos Issue — Abingdon Elementary, which is undergoing an expansion and renovation project, is closed today due to an asbestos incident on Tuesday. “This afternoon an error was made by one of the subcontractors working on the Abingdon Elementary School project who did not appropriately handle the removal of asbestos,” parents were told in an email yesterday. “As a result, since it was close to dismissal time APS Facilities staff immediately contacted the school to have all students and staff shelter in place in their classrooms to limit movement throughout the school for the remainder of the day.” APS will conduct testing to determine whether the school can reopen Thursday.
Graffiti PSA From ACPD — Arlington County Police is reminding the public that graffiti on either public or private property should be reported to the police non-emergency line, at 703-558-2222. “Graffiti is not a new problem in Arlington but something ACPD needs your help with,” the department said. ACPD’s Gang Unit reviews all graffiti reports. [Arlington County]
Man Charged With Secretly Filming Sexual Encounter — A former Oregon congressional candidate has been charged in Arlington with secretly recording a video of himself having sex with a 22-year-old woman in his apartment. Jim Feldkamp, 53, most recently worked as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and the woman was a student there, according to news reports. [Register-Guard, KVAL]
Metro Workers Meet at Arlington Church — A group of Metro workers met last night in an Arlington church to discuss planned budget cuts and service reductions. Said one former bus operator: “Virginia should be outraged. This is going to cause of catastrophe. All of these cuts in Virginia, it’s already gridlock.” [WJLA]
Favola Gets in Knife Fight in Richmond — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is speaking out against a bill that would make it legal for family members to give several types of knives — a switchblade, Bowie knife and a dirk — to children. Currently, family members can give kids guns but not those types of knives. “This is just bad public policy,” Favola said of the bill, which narrowly passed. “Why would you want to put our children at risk?” [Washington Post]
No trains will run on the Blue Line between Rosslyn and the Pentagon between Feb. 11-28, Metro announced earlier today. Blue Line trains will only operate between Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport during the maintenance period.
Orange and Silver Line trains will not be affected by the latest SafeTrack surge, officials said.
Alexandria will bear the brunt of the next round of “surge” work. From March 4 to April 9, Metro trains will share a single track on the Blue and Yellow lines between the Braddock Road and Huntington/Van Dorn Street stations. Blue Line trains will run every 24 minutes during that time, while the Yellow Line between National Airport and Mt. Vernon Square will run every 6-12 minutes, according to Metro.
Later this year — at some point around May and June — a portion of the Orange Line between the Minnesota Avenue and New Carrollton stops is also scheduled to undergo maintenance and single tracking.
Track work was suspended this month due to the inauguration and “the potential for winter weather impacts,” according to Metro. The SafeTrack program is currently slated to wrap up in late June, though the final dates haven’t yet been announced.
SafeTrack is intended to “rehabilitate the Metrorail system to improve safety and reliability.” Two hours after Metro announced the updated SafeTrack schedule, Arlington County firefighters responded to the Rosslyn station for a report of an arcing insulator.
Track inspections did not find any significant smoke or fire, but the emergency response did have some traffic impacts in Rosslyn.
ACFD is responding to the Rosslyn Metro station for a report of an arcing insulator in the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom
— Arlington News (@ARLnowDOTcom) January 12, 2017
— Rail Transit OPS (@RailTransitOPS) January 12, 2017
— Pete Muntean (@petemuntean) January 12, 2017
Image via Metro
Webb Running for School Board — Former candidate for Congress Mike Webb says he’s running for Arlington School Board against incumbent James Lander. “Every problem that we face in Arlington’s public schools can find a solution in opening public charter schools,” Webb wrote in a Facebook post. [Blue Virginia]
Handbag Schemer Led Lavish Lifestyle — Praepitcha Smatsorabudh, the Arlington resident who was just sentenced to 30 months in prison for a fake handbag scheme, led a lavish jet-setting lifestyle that she documented on Instagram while perpetrating the $1 million fraud. [The Sun, Daily Mail]
Metro Installing More WiFi — After a six-station pilot program, Metro has announced that it will be installing public WiFi at all of its underground stations. The work is expected to begin this summer and wrap up by the end of 2018. [The Hill]
VHC to Expand Mental Health Facilities — Virginia Hospital Center is being pushed to expand its behavioral and mental health facilities as part of a proposed expansion of the hospital. Currently, the facilities are located in the hospital’s basement and only include 18 beds. There are an estimated 6,000 people with serious mental illness in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Arlington Suicide Prevention Survey — Arlington is conducting an online survey about the county’s suicide prevention resources and services. [SurveyMonkey]
Photo courtesy Mark T.