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A panel discussing what Arlington will look like in 2050 (via Arlington County)

An intensifying climate and ongoing impacts of the shift to remote work will transform Arlington over the next 25 years, experts say.

At the same time, the county’s workforce will need to become more nimble to keep up with changes driven by artificial intelligence.

Speakers made these predictions on Monday during a panel that kicked off a year-long discussion of what Arlington should look like two-and-a-half decades from now, called the Arlington 2050 Initiative.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, who moderated the event, said the county will use community input to produce two or three visions to guide later decisions.

“For now, we’re just trying to get as many views as we can, as possible, to begin to form those alternate visions of what our future should be,” Garvey said.

At the end of the evening, a crowd of about 150 attendees filled out postcards imagining that they were describing Arlington in the year 2050. Common themes included more green spaces, expanded public transit and the erasure of racial and economic disparities.

“Diverse thought and opinions are prioritized in order to make Arlington a place where people can live comfortably, and at times during difficult conversations, uncomfortably, in order to progress our county,” said a 16-year-old representative from the Teen Network Board, reading aloud from a postcard.

The climate in 2050

In terms of the climate, Arlington’s 2050 forecast calls for hotter summers and more intense precipitation.

In the 1800s, Arlington used to experience about 20 days each summer above 90 degrees, said panelist Jason Samenow, a meteorologist and weather journalist at the Washington Post. These days, it’s more like 40.

Between 2041 and 2070, Arlington is expected to average 65 days each year above 90 degrees — and that’s based on an optimistic model. More aggressive scenarios, he said, call for even more serious impacts.

“It just means more suffering, especially for vulnerable populations, for people who are poor, the homeless,” Samenow said. “On hot summer nights, they can’t cool off. That increases heat-related illness, heat-related mortality.”

A warming climate disparately impacts urban areas such as Arlington, which tend to have lots of concrete and asphalt, he said. These surfaces absorb heat and radiate it back into the environment, making them hotter than more rural areas. The county can combat these effects by planting more trees and investing in surfaces that reflect heat instead of absorbing it.

In addition to heatwaves, heavy rainstorms are expected to take a toll and the meteorologist warned of more flash flooding such as the severe floods Arlington saw in 2019.

He urged the county to find ways to reroute traffic and redirect floodwaters during torrential rain.

“I think we have to start thinking real mitigation, from the perspective of how an engineer sees mitigation,” Samenow said. “That means redesigning how we live, redesigning how we work, redesigning how we play.”

Adapting to remote work

Another challenge that Arlington faces is people leaving.

Even before the pandemic, many young urban professionals across the country were seeking less expensive places to live, said Hamilton Lombard, a demographer at the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Arlington was not immune from this trend, exacerbated by the shift to remote work, the consequences of which are still playing out.

Remote workers continue to leave Arlington en masse, Lombard said, noting that last year, people moved out of Arlington “on a scale comparable with 2020 and 2021.”

If many workers can live anywhere, the county needs to figure out why people should choose to remain here.

“There’s a lot of rural counties in Virginia that are very happy to compete with Arlington,” the demographer said. “I think five years ago, people would have laughed at that idea. But they’re not. They’re very serious about it now.”

As Arlington continues to seek solutions to the effects of remote work, Lombard said the county should consider just how much it has adapted and changed at other points in recent history, such as its “smart growth” along Metro corridors.

“Arlington has shown in the past that it has the capacity to make some serious adaptations and changes,” he said. “It did this with Metro. I think in the next couple decades, [Arlington is] going to have to make changes on a scale that has been successful in the past.”

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Black History Month event at Arlington Public Library in 2023 (Courtesy of Daniel Rosenbaum)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Black History Month starts today and events are planned throughout the month in Arlington to honor the history and achievements of African Americans past and the present.

As Black History Month, February pays “tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society,” according to the Library of Congress.

Arlington Public Library will kick off a month of programming this Saturday (Feb. 3) at 1:30 p.m. with a presentation by Maryland-based oyster farmer Imani Black on the Black history of Chesapeake Bay aquaculture. The event is taking place at the Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.).

Black comes from a 200-year lineage of watermen and today runs a nonprofit called Minorities In Aquaculture that supports underrepresented populations in aquaculture.

On Monday (Feb. 5), local nonprofit Coalition for Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) will host a panel discussion about the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum course. The new course is set to launch this year after coming under scrutiny from conservative critics, including former GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

“African-American history is one of struggle and triumph, and its impact and importance to how it has shaped this country presently has a rightful place to be taught in this nation, as Black History is American History,” said CEO founder and board member Zakiya Worthey, in a press release. “Therefore, history must always be protected for our children and future generations.”

Attendees can register online for the discussion, to be held at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 6-8 p.m.

Later this month, the Charles Drew Community Center will host the county’s annual “Feel the Heritage” festival. Held from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, the festival showcases Arlington’s historical African American neighborhoods and will have live entertainment, food and tables and digital art displays from local vendors and artists.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation has also organized a month-long Black History Month-themed scavenger hunt featuring “Sam Sandiego,” “a fun-loving spy who wants to help you discover the hidden gems in Arlington,” per a county webpage. Clues will be posted on Facebook and YouTube.

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Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, discussing UAP incidents at George Mason University (staff photo by James Jarvis)

The head of the U.S. intelligence agency tasked with investigating alleged alien spacecraft sightings says it found no evidence of extraterrestrial life on Earth.

But that’s not necessarily good news, says Sean Kirkpatrick, director of the Pentagon’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).

Instead, Kirkpatrick fears the handful of the agency’s unresolved cases might be examples of unidentified, advanced earthly technologies instead of alien spacecraft, which poses a “big national security risk.”

“The best thing that could have happened in this job is to find the aliens because the alternative… is not a good thing,” Kirkpatrick said during a George Mason University panel on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena, or UAP, last week.

The event — a few months after a memorable Congressional hearing on potential extraterrestrials this summer — focused on AARO’s findings from some 800 reported sightings and their implications for national security. While the vast majority of objects are benign, a small handful give Kirkpatrick pause.

“There was only about 2-4%, I think was around the number, that we have enough data for that are truly something we want to go dig in and go figure out what that is, and most everything else we can readily identify,” he said.

Most of the time, sightings wind up being everyday items, such as balloons, often misreported due to “training problems.”

“We have a number of pilots who will see these off in the distance, and there is an optical illusion that they will often see it’s called parallax,” he said.

“But they see it. They don’t understand it. They report it, and they write down in their report this is a UAP… they will clearly say, however, it looks like a balloon. It’s got a tether on it. It looks like it’s flying with the wind. But it because they mark it as a UAP it comes to us,” Kirkpatrick continued.

Before AARO’s inception in July 2022, there was very little serious analysis of UAP sightings, says Kirkpatrick, who is retiring next month.

His job, and that of AARO, has been to resolve reported sightings and develop a framework for evaluating sightings to use going forward.

First, Kirkpatrick says, scientists have to determine what the sensors that sensed a UAP are intended to detect, he says. Then, analysts compare these findings with information from the intelligence community on known entities or individuals who may be “doing something that matches those signatures.”

If the two groups disagree, Kirkpatrick says they try and get to a solution in what he affectionately called a “cage match.”

So far, no evidence of extraterrestrial life has been found. The unexplained 2-4% of cases — often resembling state-of-the-art earthly technologies, such as spherical drones — give him pause, however.

“We did a commercial drone survey and did some research going on out there and do you know what then the next biggest wave of drone technology is? Spherical drones,” he said. “Do you know why? Because they’re safe to use inside, so if they crash into people that, you don’t get hit in the head with a propeller.”

Kirkpatrick says AARO is working on ways to differentiate between earthly and alien tech signatures, though he believes the latter is far less likely.

“Now I know out in the universe, because of the vastness of the universe, it is — and I think most of the scientific community would agree with this — statistically impossible that there’s no life out there,” Kirkpatrick said. “Whether or not that’s intelligent life, whether or not they’ve traveled here, that is a diminishing probability as you go down that train.”

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A sign along Washington Blvd in Westover, in a neighborhood with duplexes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The resident lawsuit against Arlington County’s Missing Middle zoning ordinances can move forward.

Today (Thursday), retired Fairfax County Judge David Schell denied most of the county’s motions to dismiss the case, according to an attorney for the 10 residents who sued Arlington. He had put off making a decision for one month when the parties last convened in court in September.

The judge upheld their right to sue on six of seven charges they levied against Arlington County. The residents said the county ran afoul of state law when it allowed 2-6 unit homes, also known as Expanded Housing Options or EHOs, in areas formerly zoned exclusively for single-family homes.

Among other reasons, they say the county acted improperly because it did not commission studies to gauge their impact.

Only one charge will not move forward, we’re told. This charge asserted the county violated Freedom of Information laws in how the county disseminated information to Arlington County Board members on the day of their vote as well as to the community.

The court will now reconvene on Nov. 16 to set trial dates.

“Residents are seeking to hold the Arlington County Board accountable for failing to follow the law in its elimination of single-family zoning in Arlington,” Dan Creedon, a member of Neighbors for Neighborhoods Litigation Fund, which has provided financial support for the suit, said in a statement.

“The judge’s ruling recognizes that the plaintiffs — all Arlington homeowners — get the opportunity to make their case at trial,” he continued. “This is the democratic process at work.”

Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), another group opposed to Arlington’s Missing Middle rezoning, called the decision “a major victory for residents.”

“Using our tax dollars to contest the residents, Arlington County’s attorneys tried to get this case dismissed before trial on multiple different grounds, but failed,” said ASF founder Peter Rousselot.

Arlington County had argued the 10 residents who sued did not have legal standing to do so, saying it is too soon to tell if they will be harmed and it is unlikely they will experience particular harms other residents will not.

In court last month, Arlington County Attorney MinhChau Corr said this case amounts to upset residents who disliked the decision and took to the court for relief. She said this tactic is a “subversion of our democratic process.”

Schell disagreed. He said it was “readily apparent” that the plaintiffs have standing to sue as owners of properties that have been rezoned from single-family to multi-family, per the release from Neighbors for Neighborhoods.

“He added that the plaintiffs don’t need to wait for multi-family buildings to be built in their neighborhoods to sue and that the lawsuit is a ‘quintessential’ use of declaratory judgment (declaring that EHO zoning is void) as a remedy,” the organization said.

To illustrate the fact that the residents are affected by Missing Middle, the judge “used an extreme analogy that if their homes had been rezoned from residential to garbage dumps, it would affect their interests,” according to Natalie Roy, a former Arlington County Board candidate who published highlights in her “EHO Watch” newsletter.

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CivFed’s panel on Missing Middle on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 (via Facebook)

Before four panelists could jump into discussing Missing Middle housing, moderators of Arlington County Civic Federation‘s forum last night (Tuesday) did something unusual.

They laid out ground rules for civil discourse, as other community discussions of the county’s proposed zoning changes have gotten loud, and even rowdy.

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.”

Concentration of home ownership in Arlington County (courtesy of Michael Spotts)

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.

Affordability matrix for potential homebuyers in Arlington (courtesy of Michael Spotts)

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.”

Single-family detached home occupancy rate by race and ethnicity (via Arlington County)

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.”

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Arlington County will host a community event on June 6th to discuss how technology will impact the future of work. Tell us what you think.

For the past two years, Arlington County has been named the Top Digital County in the nation by the Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties.

A cornerstone of this recognition has been Arlington’s initiative to envision the County’s future through its Defining Arlington’s Digital Destiny campaign.

Arlington’s Digital Destiny is an ongoing series that brings together a broad and diverse group of residents, businesses, technologists and members of the not for profit and higher education communities to discuss what the future might hold for Arlington.

The Digital Destiny series has focused on mobility and transit, learning, aging independently, energy sustainability, and security and privacy in a digital world, among other topics.

These conversations have been a foundation for Arlingtonians to raise awareness of the impact technology will have on their community and to share different perspectives that can serve as guideposts for future visioning and strategic planning.

If you’ve missed some of the earlier discussions, you still have a chance to take part in a new talk titled The Future of Work in Arlington on June 6 at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N Quincy Street).

Panelists for this event will include Anne Khademian, presidential fellow at Virginia Tech; Dr. Yahya Shaihk, an associate at Johns Hopkins University and senior consultant at Connected Health, FCC; Jason Drake, a manager for training and organizational development at Arlington County Government; and Steve Kenny, regional VP at Gartner, LLC.

Guests can arrive at 6 p.m. for networking and light refreshments. The panel and breakout discussions will kick off at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. Simply register to attend or join us live via Twitter.

Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.

Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.

Tuesday, March 13

Trivia Night: Are you smarter than a Catholic sister?*
Ireland’s Four Courts (2051 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 6:30-9 p.m.

Test your pop culture and general knowledge against a team of Catholic Sisters, with drink specials and free appetizers. Prizes for top trivia teams.

Wednesday, March 14

Shaping Arlington for a Smart & Secure Future*
County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6-8 p.m.

Listen to a panel discussion on how technology will shape Arlington, featuring government and cybersecurity experts. A reception with light refreshments will also be held.

Arlington Committee of 100 Virginia Hospital Center Expansion*
Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road)
Time: 7-9 p.m.

The Committee of 100 is hosting a panel discussion on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion, the county’s population growth and evolving community healthcare needs. Optional dinner served.

Thursday, March 15

Parenting Lecture: Parenting an Anxious Child
The Sycamore School (4600 N. Fairfax Drive)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.

Dr. Christine Golden will discuss the challenges of parenting a child with anxiety and offer some helpful strategies for managing behaviors. The lecture is free to attend.

Friday, March 16

St. Agnes Soup Supper*
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 5:30-7 p.m.

The church will offer meatless soups and a noodle dish, and more every Friday during the Lenten holiday. Guests are invited to stay for confession and the stations of the cross afterwards.

Saturday, March 17

Whitlow’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Boulevard)
Time: 9 a.m. – Close

Live Irish music and an open rooftop welcome you at Whitlow’s On Wilson’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Special Irish menu and March Madness games on the TVs all day.

WJAFC Open Day*
Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street)
Time: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

A co-ed, free clinic to learn the Australian football game. Kids from 5-15 will learn starting at 9 a.m., with an adults clinic and co-ed non-contact game at 10:30 a.m.

Guinness and Gold*
Ten at Clarendon (3110 10th Street N.)
Time: 12-5 p.m.

Tour the Clarendon apartment building with a free Guinness and cash in on leasing deals. Leasing specials are subject to terms and conditions.

Wine Dinner*
Osteria da Nino (2900 S. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Tre Monti winery over a four course meal with five wines, including theThea Passito 2012 Romagna Albana DOCG raisin wine. Tickets are $75 per person.

Yorktown High School Presents “Almost, Maine”*
Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Boulevard)
Time: 7-9:30 p.m.

Students will be performing John Cariani’s “Almost Maine,” about a remote, mythical town and the effect of the northern lights on the lovestruck residents. Tickets are $10.

Sunday, March 18

St. Joseph’s Table Celebration
St. Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street)
Time: 1-4 p.m.

Join the church following the noon mass for a procession to celebrate this feast day with a potluck lunch, live music, and a kids woodworking shop.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) event

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Anyone who wants their pet to get more followers on social media can learn how to do just that at a panel discussion next week.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington will host a panel discussion called “Insta-Pets: How To Make Your Pets Instagram Famous,” from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 31 at its 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive headquarters.

Speaking will be the owners of some of the most popular animal Instagram accounts in the D.C. area, including Izzy the Chow, Sebastian and Luna, and Navy the Corgi.

“Is your dog the cutest thing since sliced bread, but they still only have 15 followers on Instagram?” organizers wrote. “Does your cat do more tricks than Penn & Teller, but only your mom and dad are seeing the amazing feats? Have you set up the cutest Instagram account ever for your animal, but you can’t get over your follower plateau? AWLA is here to help!”

Tickets are $15 and are available online.

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington may have a relatively low crime rate and a reputation for being a idyllic “urban village,” but there are still gangs — including the notorious MS-13 street gang — operating in our midst.

An event next week will remind residents that Arlington is not without gang activity and gang-related violence.

On Tuesday, April 17, Leadership Arlington will be holding a panel discussion entitled “Arlington County Gangs: Exploring the Shadows of Our Urban Mayberry.” Part of the organization’s spring speaker series, the event will focus on “the threats that gang activity present to the Arlington community,” “contributing factors to youth participation in gangs” and “initiatives in place to address gang-related violence.”

The speakers include Robert “Tito” Vilchez of the Arlington County Task Force, a member of the Arlington County Police Gang Unit, and Meredith McKeen of Northern Virginia Family Services.

Gang activity might not be visible to many residents, but it is to many of Arlington’s youth. One in six Arlington Public Schools students know at least one person who is involved in gang activity, according to the event invitation.

The panel discussion will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the WETA building (2775 S. Quincy Street). Tickets are $40 for the general public and $30 for Leadership Arlington members. Lunch is included in the price of admission.

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The video is long (nearly an hour) and the audio is low, but the county’s television channel has posted a video of an fascinating panel discussion on this history of rock and roll in Northern Virginia.

Featured in the video are five men who promoted local concerts in the ’60s and 70s: Derwood Settles, Teddy Bodnar, Michael Oberman, Mike Schreibman, and Bud Becker. The discussion, organized by cultural historian Jeff Krulik, was held in the Artisphere in November.

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