(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington’s Missing Middle housing proposal has aroused plenty of passion, but the strong opposition (and support) only registered a blip in last night’s election results.
Democrat incumbent Matt de Ferranti easily won his re-election bid for the Arlington County Board, with 61% of the vote to 28% for Audrey Clement and 10% for Adam Theo. (All but one county precinct have reported results as of publication.)
Leading up to the election, Missing Middle — a series of zoning changes that would potentially allow the construction of townhouses, duplexes and 3-8 unit buildings in districts zoned for single-family homes — had become a battleground issue for candidates.
De Ferranti staked out a middle ground on the issue, supporting lower density types such as duplexes, three-unit townhomes and fourplexes, but not eight-plexes, while independent candidate Adam Theo did not support any caps on density.
Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement opposed the plan full-stop based on concerns about its impact on the environment and county infrastructure, as well as concerns of displacement.
Proponents of the zoning change say last night’s results indicate as the support of most residents and the County Board needs to crack on with approving it.
“Arlington County voters have spoken,” said YIMBYs of Northern Virginia in a statement. “In a race that was widely seen as a de facto referendum on the Missing Middle housing proposal, 70% of voters chose a candidate who ran in support of these zoning reforms. Legalizing diverse forms of housing throughout Arlington County is not only existentially important to making the housing market function again and building a more inclusive Arlington. It is also good politics.”
The organization’s Activism Coordinator Grace White said Arlington is mostly made of renters and people who live in multifamily buildings, but they’re constrained to 25% of the land.
“To them, Missing Middle housing is a no-brainer, and necessary for them to see any kind of future here,” she said.
Opponents, like Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, say the proposal has the same flaws today as it did the day before the election, and its members will continue educating voters about what those are.
“Speaking for ASF, the only way to really know in a comprehensive way what Arlington residents think on Missing Middle would be to have a referendum,” says group founder Peter Rousselot. “That would be a clear way for people to express how they feel about Missing Middle. In an election we just had where there are so many other issues being talked about, the whole impact is diluted a lot.”
How Missing Middle split voters
For George Mason University Mercatus Center senior research fellow Emily Hamilton, the results appeared to mirror Arlington’s geography.
“I’m not sure to what extent voters were focused on Missing Middle versus other issues, but it does seem that the election results followed housing typologies, with Clement doing the best in some of the least-dense parts of North Arlington and Theo doing the best in some of the densest,” she said.
“The results show that while people who are opposed to Missing Middle have been visible at public engagement sessions and with yard signs,” Hamilton continued, “most voters didn’t cast use their vote to oppose Missing Middle.”
Arlington County Republican Committee communications chair Matthew Hurtt says the debate split Arlington Republicans, too, with an “overwhelming majority” of the Arlington GOP opposing the proposal, but “a strong contingent” of Young Republicans supporting it.
“The Arlington GOP likely broke for Audrey Clement, while the YRs likely broke for Adam Theo,” he said.
Despite the divide, Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Steve Baker says he hopes the problem of housing affordability can get Arlingtonians to work toward a solution.
“I think we all agree that in a county where a residential lot costs over $1 million, that housing will remain one of our key issues,” he said. “Even though some candidates tried to use our varying views to divide us, Arlingtonians voted to affirm that we can solve our biggest challenges together.”
De Ferranti echoed this sentiment last night.
“We have to tackle housing with creativity and commitment, and that means both affordable housing and housing affordability — which are related but distinct,” he said. “We need to have a civil discussion and stay engaged in the work needed to address housing affordability.”
(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) What many believed would be the most competitive Arlington County Board race in four years has turned out to be another convincing Democratic victory.
Clement strongly opposes the proposal to allow smaller-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently zoned only for single-family homes, while Theo supports it. De Ferranti, meanwhile, staked out a middle ground, expressing opposition to the higher 8-unit end of the potential range of allowed housing types.
With 55 out of 57 precincts reporting, de Ferranti has 60% of the vote to 28% for Clement and 10% for Theo.
Both Clement and Theo ran for County Board last year, before Missing Middle came to the fore as a hot-button local issue. In the 2021 race, Democrat Takis Karantonis carried about 60% of the vote to 18% for Clement, 6% for Theo and 14% for Mike Cantwell, another independent candidate..
The Missing Middle proposal has attracted the ire of many homeowners, while a coalition of groups — from affordable housing boosters to the local chapter of the NAACP — support it.
An early look at precinct-by-precinct results shows support for Clement in Arlington’s northern, single-family home neighborhoods. The Madison district in far northern Arlington, for instance, has voted 58% for Clement to 36% for de Ferranti and 4% for Theo. She also claimed the Thrifton (Woodmont), Rock Spring, and Yorktown districts — all also in far northern Arlington.
That compares to the more renter-heavy Met Park district, in the Pentagon City neighborhood, which voted 64% for de Ferranti and 20% for Clement and 15% for Theo. A more “in between” district — Fairlington, with its mix of townhouses and smaller condo buildings — voted 66% for de Ferranti, 23% for Clement and 9% for Theo.
Also on the ballot today were School Board and congressional races, which were even more lopsided for the Democratic candidates.
For the open Arlington School Board seat vacated by Barbara Kanninen, Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed candidate Bethany Sutton has 68% of the vote to 30% for independent James ‘Vell’ Rives IV.
Arlington Democrats claimed victory on Twitter just after 9 p.m.
— Arlington Democrats (@arlingtondems) November 9, 2022
De Ferranti tells ARLnow he was impressed by the 85,000 people who voted this election, in which there was no senatorial, gubernatorial or presidential race.
“In Virginia, that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “There are other elections where there is an even lower turnout. This is a pretty rare election, and to have 85,000 vote in this election is a pretty solid turnout.”
He said addressing climate change, investing in schools and tackling affordable housing and housing affordability — “related but distinct” issues — will be key priorities this term.
“I’m grateful to Arlington residents for the chance to serve them,” he said. “I love doing this job and I’m humbled, grateful, and looking forward to serving over the next four years. I’m going to try and live up to Arlingtonians: that means being smart, thoughtful and compassionate, caring about our community and being forward-looking.”
Clement told ARLnow she was dismayed with the results, though she won four out of 54 districts — including Madison, with her 22-point margin — and came within just over 1% of the vote in another.
“I didn’t perform as well as I thought I would,” she said. “I thought I would push 40% — the sentiment I got on the street indicated a better showing.”
Election Day is here, and thousands of residents are hitting the polls — manned by 426 volunteers — to cast their ballots in the 2022 mid-term election.
By 9 a.m., about 10% of Arlington voted in-person, according to the county elections office, in addition to the 13% of people who voted early and in-person and 7% who voted by mail.
“The polls have been steady so far this morning,” said Tania Griffin, spokeswoman for the Arlington Office of Voter Registration and Elections.
Turnout in a midterm is typically about half the turnout of a presidential election, Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer previously told ARLnow.
Just over 20,000 people voted early in this year’s general election, Griffin said. Combined with the more than 11,000 absentee ballots sent in, Virginia Public Access Project says Arlington’s early voting rate surpasses those for Northern Virginia and the state. (Nearly 5,000 have not returned the mail ballots they requested.)
In 2018, the last midterm election, 21,147 ballots were cast early, per VPAP.
While early voting got off to a muted start to in September, and was “slightly slower” than last year’s election, local and statewide Democrats celebrated early voting numbers yesterday during a rally at the home of Matt de Ferranti, the Democrat Arlington County Board incumbent running for re-election.
“The trends are positive, particularly in the three parts of the state that have really competitive congressional districts. We see high numbers, and we really see good Democratic advantage in the early vote,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who came out for the rally. “We really like what we’re seeing.”
Kaine said one top driver for races this year is the economy, which he characterized as a mixed bag.
“You have inflation but you have historic job growth. Inflation might make you worry if there’s a downturn coming, but then you see how strong job growth is — during Biden’s term, 10 million-plus jobs, manufacturing coming back, big job announcements with Amazon,” he said. “I think the evidence will be mixed.”
Among the countywide races, voters can choose between two School Board candidates — independent, Sun Gazette-endorsed James “Vell” Rives IV and Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed Bethany Sutton.
In Arlington, the most watched race this year is likely that for County Board, which has become a showdown on the topic of Missing Middle housing — the proposal to open up single-family zoning to smaller-scale multifamily housing.
De Ferranti said that could have driven the relatively higher early voting showing.
“The early vote we’re seeing is so stepped up that we’ll have to see what the total turnout is,” de Ferranti said. “This is greater turnout than 2018 so far, and I think some of that is the discussion we’re having on housing.”
“After squeezing in last minute doorknocking yesterday, and all the responses I’m receiving this morning at precincts, I’m feeling very optimistic for the campaign and the success of the Missing Middle housing proposal,” Theo told ARLnow.
As the County Board gets closer to a vote on the proposal, perhaps as early as December, we’ve compiled a dozen opinion pieces on the topic that have been published elsewhere. Many are letters to the editor or op-eds that have appeared in the Sun Gazette and Washington Post, while others have been features published in policy-focused publications like The Hill and Washington Monthly.
The following are numbered (in no particular order) and broken down by “for” or “against” Missing Middle.
1. For: The ‘missing middle’ is a crucial piece of Arlington’s housing puzzle (Washington Post)
We live in the 22202 area of South Arlington, spanning from original Sears houses to the new Amazon headquarters. Our neighborhood has been recognized for its mix of “single dwellings, twin dwellings, duplexes, apartment buildings, religious buildings, educational buildings, and commercial buildings.” Despite being dwarfed by newly built single-family homes, the dozens of aging duplexes and triplexes would be illegal to build today.
2. Against: What’s at stake with Arlington’s missing-middle housing debate (Washington Post)
It was hard for me to pick a side. Some of the NIMBYs think it’s possible to go back to an era in the 1990s when Arlington felt like an undiscovered oasis next to a booming metropolis. But there is no going back. A do-nothing option will slowly destroy Arlington’s beautiful multiclass, multiethnic mosaic. To be fair, most NIMBYs don’t argue this. However, these logical flaws pale in comparison with the misapplication of economics, blatant conflicts of interest, limited demonstrated understanding of history and selective data presentation from the YIMBYs.
3. For: Arlington’s ‘missing middle’ fight and the struggle for affordable housing (The Hill)
Exclusionary zoning disproportionately impacts the minorities and the poor, who are less likely to be able to afford expensive housing than affluent whites. Historically, restrictions like those currently in force in Arlington were often enacted for the specific purpose of keeping out Blacks and other non-whites. That’s one reason why the Arlington NAACP supports Missing Middle. Liberalizing the construction of new housing is an under-appreciated common interest of racial minorities and the white working class.
4. Against: Missing Middle will devastate Arlington communities (Sun Gazette)
Let us fervently hope that the current Arlington County Board will not be remembered as the group that foisted on unsuspecting residents the destruction of our community’s old, leafy, peaceful, beautiful neighborhoods. I don’t happen to live in one myself, but they are precious and must be preserved. Their tranquility and forests benefit all of us. “Missing Middle” is wrong on so many fronts.
5. For: Why I Can’t Afford to Live Where I Grew Up (Washington Monthly)
Everyone deserves to grow up in a place like Arlington–walkable, transit oriented, full of interesting restaurants and stores, diverse, and with great schools and nice parks. A wonderful place to learn to ride a bike, to develop an interest, and to make lifelong friends. But I know that given my current career trajectory, becoming a homeowner in Arlington is unlikely. If the city had been as expensive when my parents were a young couple looking in the late 1990s, I would have been raised in a farther-out suburb like Woodbridge or Lorton instead.
6. Against: Arlington should not be guinea pig for Missing Middle (Sun Gazette)
I introduced myself to County Board Chair Katie Cristol at the end of the session, and was shocked when she told me that she wants to pass Missing Middle zoning changes because she wants Arlington to be the first county on the entire East Coast to introduce this ordinance. I couldn’t believe what she said. I don’t want Arlington to be guinea pig for an unproven idea. This is not a contest to see who is first. I am assuming the County Board Members are looking for this to be part of their résumés. Changing the zoning planning needs to be done in a methodical and responsible way.
After contentious meetings this summer, the county hosted community conversations and information sessions to gather more feedback from residents and share more information about its proposal to allow “middle housing” types — ranging from duplexes to eight-plexes — in districts zoned for single-family homes.
The new draft document, released Monday night, allows the by-right construction of duplexes, three-unit townhouses and multifamily buildings with up to eight units on lots no larger than one acre in districts currently only zoned for single-family homes. (Lots greater than one acre would require the county’s site review process that incorporates public hearings.)
The new additions address the number of units allowed per lot, parking requirements, tree loss and the overall impact of Missing Middle on the pace of redevelopment, per a County Board letter to the Planning Commission describing the draft.
“The input from so many members of the Arlington community has shaped the options for text amendments that are now before you for consideration,” the Board letter says. “The Phase 3 Preliminary Policy Approaches and Considerations — options which this text could effectuate — reflect key areas of community feedback.”
Now, the Arlington County Board is set to decide whether density should be determined by the size of the lot, or if all lots should allow up to eight-unit buildings, as long as the building footprint does not exceed a certain level.
Missing Middle proponent Jane Green, representing YIMBYs for Northern Virginia, said the tiering proposal “is reasonable and codifies what would mostly happen based on the reality of building code restrictions.”
Another proponent, a longtime housing researcher Michael Spotts, said in a thread on Twitter that he prefers allowing eight-unit buildings everywhere, but the tiered option “seems flexible enough to enable MM while addressing concerns about massing on smaller lots.”
Regarding parking, there are new limits placed on the number of spots required per building that vary based on proximity to transit and whether the building is on a cul-de-sac.
The draft text would require at least .5 parking spaces per unit within a certain distance of transit, and at least one parking space per unit for dwellings on a cul-de-sac, regardless of proximity to transit.
For advocates, that’s too much parking. Spotts noted he thinks the parking standards are “a bit too high,” but, he added, “I like that they allow for administrative approval for off-street parking reductions if on-site parking is available. ”
This marks a departure from other municipalities that have already approved Missing Middle housing. Both Portland and Minneapolis removed parking minimums to encourage construction of these housing types.
As for trees, the draft proposes requiring at least one tree for every dwelling unit on a lot.
While Green and Spotts said the provision on trees highlights the county’s willingness to listen and change, Missing Middle opponents are not so sure.
“The new draft Missing Middle plan shows that the County Board is listening to its critics,” Green said. “It provides options that address tree canopy, the potential of limiting higher unit buildings to larger lots and adjusting parking requirements by proximity to transit.”
Anne Bodine, of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, which opposes the proposal, said “it sounds good at first glance, but I’m not sure how it clicks with” state tree planting requirements.
Lastly, regarding the limits on the pace of development, staff have included “placeholder” language floating the idea of annual caps on development or neighborhood-based caps to prevent high concentrations of projects in some areas and little change in others.
That responds to concerns that neighborhoods with relatively less expensive homes and land values, such as Halls Hill, will see more development than more expensive neighborhoods further north.
But YIMBYs of NOVA is urging the county to adopt options providing “the fewest barriers to building new housing,” Green said.
“In particular, the County should reject options that allow caps on the number of units per year,” she said. “Addressing our housing crisis cannot wait.”
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County is gearing up to make a decision on whether to rezone areas that only allow single-family detached homes.
Proponents say the changes will give renters, middle-income residents and many people of color a fighting chance to buy in Arlington. Opponents say the plan will forever change local neighborhoods, won’t serve lower-income residents, will displace seniors and and people of color, and will cut the county’s tree canopy.
Two cities — Portland, Oregon (pop. 641,162) and Minneapolis, Minnesota (pop. 425,336) — have walked this path before, enacting similar policies in 2020 and 2018, respectively.
Both policies were described as controversial, as local officials considered whether to adopt them. In Portland, concerns over displacement of low-income renters led some officials to vote against the changes. In Minneapolis, support for the change among local officials was near-unanimous despite some vocal opposition, deemed NIMBYism in a 2019 article in The Atlantic.
Since then, both municipalities have clocked a modest number of “middle housing” units. A similar story could play out in Arlington, where the county estimates about 19-21 units could be built per year, but support for and opposition to “Missing Middle” continues to intensify.
“Our goal wasn’t really to drastically change the landscape of our primarily single-family neighborhoods,” Jason Wittenberg, the manager of Code Development for the City of Minneapolis, tells ARLnow. “It was always our expectation that duplexes and triplexes would be added in a very incremental way, which is how that has played out.”
He noted that both proponents and opponents “are a little surprised by the fact that it’s not a real rapid change.”
In a typical year, Minneapolis grants permits for over 3,000 new housing units. The 64 duplexes, or 128 units, built over the past 2.5 years as a result of the zoning change are “a small fraction of the overall housing supply,” Wittenberg said.
“Our feeling is that this is not insignificant,” he said. “Over time, that’s hundreds of units between now and 2040 that wouldn’t have existed.”
Meanwhile, there’s been a drop in single-family home construction, which predated the adoption of the new zoning laws and likely had to do with the pandemic, civic unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, supply chain shortages and rising construction costs, Wittenberg said.
This “it’s more than the status quo” sentiment is shared in Portland.
From Aug. 1, 2021 to Aug. 1, 2022, slightly less than half of new development consisted of “middle housing,” according to a presentation by city planner Sandra Wood during a conference hosted at George Mason University earlier this month.
Of the 196 sites developed or redeveloped, 89 had two to four units on them, yielding 289 units.
“Two hundred more units were built on those middle housing sites than would otherwise have been built, had this all been redeveloped, they would’ve just been single-family houses,” Wood said at the time.
That fits with the overarching reason for the zoning changes in Portland.
“Overall, what we’re aiming for is to increase access to more types of housing in all Portland neighborhoods, allowing more units at lower prices on every lot, and applying new limits to the building scale and heights and reducing displacement overall, which we don’t know the results of yet, but we will be monitoring,” Wood said.
The most common new housing type in Minneapolis is the duplex. About half of duplexes were built in zones that were formerly restricted to single-family homes, Wittenberg said.
Meanwhile, the most common “middle” housing type in Portland is a quadplex.
“We expected duplexes might be because of our small site sizes but fourplexes have outstripped duplexes by quite a bit,” Wood said.
Prior to the ordinance updates, Portland’s lowest-density neighborhoods allowed single-family homes, accessory dwelling units and corner-lot duplexes. The ADU program has been successful, she said, with 5,000 ADUs built so far.
Similar ADUs have started popping up in Arlington since the Arlington County Board approved them in 2019, but developers and economists say the building rate has been hampered by county policies and financing hurdles.
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Marguarite Gooden, who is now in her 70s, remembers the day that her grandfather, “a sage man,” as she describes him, told her something that would forever alter her family’s course.
“Keep the land,” he said.
When she could afford it, she purchased her first childhood home, which her father built on her grandfather’s property. She then purchased her second, larger childhood home, which her father built across what’s now named Langston Blvd, then Lee Highway, when his wife became pregnant with twins.
“I own both properties and I have had the wherewithal to make sure they’re in trusts, and that my kids and grandkids cannot sell them,” Gooden tells ARLnow.
Gooden, who shared her anecdote during a county-facilitated conversation on the Missing Middle housing study, said in an interview with ARLnow that she is glad she could help her kids stay in Arlington if they wanted. She said she wants teachers, firefighters and nurses at the nearby Virginia Hospital Center to be able to afford to live here, too.
But all around her, new construction in Halls Hill is increasingly unaffordable — a new six-bedroom, single-family home with a modern design recently went for $1.7 million compared to a circa-1995, three-bedroom townhouse went for $825,000. Another new construction, single-family detached home on a dead-end street is listed for sale for $1.9 million.
There are still some relative bargains to be had in the neighborhood, like the five-bedroom rambler that sold for $735,000, but with each “fixer-upper” sale comes with the chance that another huge house from a local builder will replace it.
The pricier homes came at the expense of this historically Black community, Gooden said, as neighbors moved away for more space or cheaper property taxes and sold the property they inherited from their parents and grandparents.
“That completely changed that neighborhood,” Gooden said. “We don’t even know all our neighbors anymore. I used to know everybody.”
After all this upheaval, could the county’s plan to allow two- to eight-unit buildings in single-family neighborhoods create more attainable homeownership opportunities in Halls Hill? Could it prevent future displacement?
One prevailing attitude is “something is better than nothing,” but concerns remain that Missing Middle will increase development in Halls Hill without bringing down the price. Certain streets already allow low-density multifamily units, and given the recent sale of two duplexes for $1.2 million apiece, they’re worried new “middle housing” won’t be attainable and won’t stem the tide of gentrification.
“People who live here are worried Halls Hill will be targeted, not more north in Arlington, where options are needed,” said community leader Wilma Jones.
Some developers, meanwhile, are excited to tap into buyers who want homes that feed into Yorktown High School and still have lower property values, at least to compared to other North Arlington neighborhoods.
“There’s such little supply, people want to be anywhere in North Arlington,” said Charles Taylor, the head of acquisitions for Arlington-based Classic Cottages. “It’s pretty schools driven. A lot of times, we don’t granularly pick and choose ‘We want to be in this block or that block,’ it’s like, ‘Hey, this is a lot in North Arlington, it feeds into Yorktown, let’s go there.'”
(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The Missing Middle housing debate fueled a tense confrontation and a spat over campaign financing during the Arlington County Board meeting Saturday.
Leading up to the meeting, proponents and opponents rallied outside of county government headquarters in Courthouse. Advocacy group leaders spoke to attendees and NBC 4 over the clang of construction on a new apartment building across the street.
The County Board is gearing up to consider whether to amend the zoning code to allow for buildings with two to eight units on lots that are currently zoned only for single-family detached homes. The Planning Commission and County Board could consider amendments to the proposal over the next few months.
Proponents say the move would give homebuyers more choices in more neighborhoods in a broader range of prices, and help undo the lasting impacts of historically racist zoning policies. Opponents counter these changes will actually displace lower-income residents, won’t decrease home prices, will reduce Arlington’s tree canopy and strain its infrastructure and schools.
In the County Board room this weekend, a resident interrupted the conclusion of an anti-Missing Middle speech to hand each County Board member a rolled-up, printed-out copy of a petition opposing the changes, which had more than 4,460 signatures as of publication.
“No, no — sir, sir, sir — excuse me, please, please, please don’t approach the Board,” said a distressed and frustrated sounding Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Please, can you please go to our Clerk? Sir? Thank you.”
Missing Middle advocate Charles Day then took the podium to say that the status quo — redevelopment of starter homes into larger, multi-million-dollar homes — increases competition for existing market-rate affordable housing, like the garden apartment on Columbia Pike he and his wife live in, thus displacing lower-income families.
“It’s not lost on us that because of lack of starter homes, couples like us are taking up an apartment that a lower-income family might need,” he said. “Unfortunately, most young people don’t have a lot of options… There’s no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis overnight but rents continue to rise and the starter home is becoming a thing of the past.”
After him, independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, speaking via Zoom, took a shot at the Sun Gazette’s endorsement of her opponent, incumbent Matt de Ferranti. She argued that de Ferranti supports Missing Middle because he’s taking money from construction workers.
“About $50,000 of de Ferranti’s large donor intake is from people and organizations outside the county, mostly outside the state, including $13,500 from construction trade unions destined to benefit from the Missing Middle building boom,” she said. “If the donations from those with no vested interest in the county were subtracted haul, his receipts would shrink to $19,000 and the election would be more competitive.”
According to Virginia Public Access Project, de Ferranti has received roughly $15,000 this year from unions representing construction workers, around the same amount as he received from a single, billionaire-funded education nonprofit.
De Ferranti said he refuses donation from developers and that donations from unions do not change his policy stances.
“I don’t take a dime from developers. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I learned that one donation that was submitted online had an association with a developer — and I returned it,” de Ferranti said in response. “I have no promises to any of the unions, I merely seek to fight for working people. Let’s have a debate on policy, let’s have a debate on equity, let’s do it civilly, please.”
Parishioners Worship Outside After Fire — “The congregation that would normally pile into the pews of the oldest church in Arlington, Virginia, instead filled the green area across from the building on Sunday after a fire did enough damage to shut it down. Flames tore through part of Mount Olivet United Methodist early Friday, leaving members without a physical place to worship. But leaders say the fire did not destroy the real church – that’s wherever the people gather.” [NBC 4]
WaPo on Missing Middle — “It’s an idea that would do away with single-family zoning, which remains central to the American idea of suburbia. And it’s being considered by more communities around the country as their housing stock has failed to keep up with all the people trying to live there. Officials in Gainesville, Fla., hope the city might lower rents in their increasingly costly college town. Spokane, Wash., city planners think they could accommodate the influx of transplants who moved in during the pandemic.” [Washington Post]
Clement Wins Greens Endorsement — “Saying she is the one candidate who will do the right thing for Arlington’s most-in-need residents, the Arlington Green Party has announced it will support independent Audrey Clement for County Board. ‘She will stand up to the developers and bring an independent voice for Arlington residents to the board,’ said Mark Antell, a Green Party member and longtime local activist.” [Sun Gazette]
Bottle Throwing Leads to Arrest — “200 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:36 p.m. on October 13, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. After further investigation it was determined the male suspect was inside a restaurant when he allegedly threw two bottles at an employee, one of which struck the victim in the face causing non-life threatening injuries. The suspect remained on scene and was taken into custody by arriving officers.” [ACPD]
Fundraiser for Puerto Rico — “Join us in helping rebuild Puerto Rico which has been devastated by the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, recently. Yas Media is inviting you to a happy hour next Wednesday, October 19th at Buena Vida Gastrolounge. We will be collecting donations in-person and via qr code.” [Event]
Ebbin Quoted in Snyder Article — “But when [state Sen. Adam] Ebbin pushed [Washington Commanders owner Dan] Snyder on specifics, like how much tax revenue a new stadium would bring in and what it would ultimately cost taxpayers, Snyder had no answers. Nor did Snyder’s chief of staff or two lobbyists also present at his house that day. ‘It was a weird meeting,’ Ebbin says.” [ESPN]
Stranger Offers Ride to Kids in F.C. — “On the afternoon of Wednesday, October 12, a man approached a group of students walking home from Oak Street Elementary School and offered them a ride. The students declined and immediately reported the event.” [City of Falls Church]
It’s Monday — Possible light rain in the morning. High of 66 and low of 54. Sunrise at 7:21 am and sunset at 6:29 pm. [Weather.gov]
Saint Agnes School Receives 2nd National Blue Ribbon Award — Saint Agnes School (SAS) is honored to cap its 75th-anniversary celebrations with its second National Blue Ribbon Award. SAS was one of twenty-four private schools to receive the award in the… [Press Release]
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It was a mostly pleasant fall weather week, save for yesterday’s soaking rain, and this weekend — particularly Saturday — is also looking pretty nice.
There’s plenty to do this weekend, so be sure to check out our event calendar when making your plans.
Now, here are the most-read local articles of the week:
- Arlington could scrub ‘dance halls’ from its county code books
- Ballpark favorite Haute Dogs coming to former BBQ restaurant space in North Arlington
- Huge Hilton hotel coming to new Rosslyn development
- Woman fatally struck by SUV driver along Little Falls Road
- Arlington CivFed’s Missing Middle discussion last night required rules of engagement
- Here are some of the Arlington businesses being offered for sale this fall
- Arlington Restaurant Week starts Monday with 40 restaurants participating
- How a Penske truck rental lot along Columbia Pike could figure into the Barcroft redevelopment
- Your next doctor’s appointment could be in Ballston Quarter
- After crash, neighbors again concerned about intersection near Lubber Run Community Center
- Salt Pot Kitchen in Ballston has closed, new tenant unknown
- Arlington asks: should Covid-era outdoor dining be a permanent fixture?
Feel free to discuss those stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a great weekend!
Arlington County is gearing up to make a decision on whether to allow low-rise, multifamily dwellings to be built on lots currently zoned exclusively for single-family homes. Leading up to the decision, the county and local organizations have been holding many discussions about the potential impacts of these changes.
Panelists, who spoke for themselves, couldn’t discuss their “feelings” and would instead have to provide a citation for every fact or projected outcome, co-moderator Nadia Conyers said. Speakers needed to seek common ground and respect areas of disagreement, and could not attribute motives to what other speakers were saying.
The panelists reviewed each other’s presentations to ensure facts were not misrepresented, co-moderator Jackie Snelling said.
“We spent a lot of time planning this discussion, which is a little different from how our normal discussions go,” she said.
Those in favor of Missing Middle said Arlington’s housing shortage requires the county to do something.
Michael Spotts, the founder of Neighborhood Fundamentals, who has researched housing for the last 15 years, said Arlington as it is currently zoned is running out of developable space. Meanwhile, developers are tearing down starter homes to build so-called McMansions, while certain neighborhoods north of Route 50 are essentially off-limits to renters, he said.
“I believe Arlington does need to grow and continue to add new housing,” Spotts said. “Aside from the economics, I don’t believe it’s fair to say certain neighborhoods shouldn’t have to contribute to meeting the growing need for housing.”
While not a panacea for all of the county’s housing concerns, he says the zoning changes would add units, increase ownership opportunities and marginally cut down on sprawl development in Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties, which in turn has environmental impacts in Arlington.
He and Eric Berkey, who chairs Arlington’s Housing Commission, said the changes would help undo the lasting effects of last century’s exclusionary and racist zoning policies. After racially restrictive covenants became illegal, Arlington County used economics to segregate Black people by banning the construction of row houses and creating zones for exclusively single-family detached houses.
“Missing Middle can provide opportunities for more families to live in not just the three or four neighborhoods where we have duplexes, but the entirety of the county in the long term,” Berkey said. “Characters make the neighborhood. It’s important for the county to get rid of these exclusionary housing policies and make sure folks can live in the entirety of our community.”
Opponents Anne Bodine, a member of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, an advocacy group concerned about rapid growth, and Julie Lee, a member of a coalition of 15 civic association presidents opposed to the framework, said more housing is needed, but Arlington does not need to pick up the slack for a region-wide shortage.
“We cannot solve all of the region’s housing issues, but we should set lofty goals, and we must implement a plan that would achieve our desired objective,” Lee said. “The Missing Middle plan does not do that.”
They argued that the zoning changes won’t make it easier for people of color and low- and middle-income earners to buy here, despite assertions to the contrary by the local chapter of the NAACP and others.
“The county says offering a diversity of housing types is a key Missing Middle goal. Why do we need diverse housing types that don’t promote racial and economic diversity?” Bodine said. “A household needs to earn 118% of the area median income to afford the cheapest Missing Middle unit of $416,000. Looking at current Arlington populations, senior, Hispanic and Black median household incomes fall short. It doesn’t mean none of these groups can afford Missing Middle units, but it shows how slim the chances are.”