Arlington, VA

Arlington officials could soon approve additional rollbacks to the number of parking spaces required for new apartment developments along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Right now, the County Board is barred from allowing new developments along certain sections of the corridor if they don’t have at least one parking space for every unit planned for the new building. The Board is now considering removing that restriction, which would specifically impact properties zoned as “R-C” districts.

About 105 properties are currently zoned “R-C,” according to a staff report prepared for the County Board, and they’re generally located around the Ballston, Virginia Square and Courthouse Metro stations.

The Board approved similar reductions to parking minimums for apartment developments along the R-B corridor and in Crystal City and Pentagon City in fall 2017, in a bid to increase walkable and transit-accessible development, and staff suggested that this change would be a logical next step for the county.

“In general, the proposed amendment could potentially facilitate multifamily residential projects in the future and that the amendment would provide the County Board the same flexibility it has when considering modifications to minimum parking ratios in other Commercial/Mixed Use Districts on a case-by-case basis,” staff wrote in the report.

Those 2017 changes generally targeted properties in the immediate vicinity of Metro stations, and the newly targeted “R-C” districts are slightly different.

Staff describes the zones as a “transitional mixed-use zone between higher-density mixed-use areas and lower-density residential areas,” and the county’s zoning map shows that the affected properties tend to sit a block or two away from major arterial roads like Wilson Blvd or Fairfax Drive.

Allowing the Board to approve similarly reduced parking minimums on those areas as well would provide “consistency” with those previous changes, staff argue.

Officials have already relied on the tweaked parking requirements to allow smaller parking garages at developments around popular Metro stations on the R-B corridor. Other cities have even taken the more drastic step of banning parking minimums entirely.

The Board will consider this proposal for the first time at its meeting Saturday (March 16). Members are scheduled to set a Planning Commission hearing on the matter for April 8, then hold a public hearing and vote on April 23.

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Some experimental parking changes throughout the Four Mile Run valley are going into effect over the next few weeks, as county officials weigh the best strategies for improving conditions in the area for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The county started rolling out the changes Saturday (Feb. 23) and plans to have all of them in place by the second week of March. Officials previously held meetings about the contemplated changes in Nauck this fall, and the County Board approved the general approach toward parking in the area as part of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan it passed in November.

The following roads are set to see parking changes over the next few weeks:

  • S. Four Mile Run Drive between Walter Reed Drive and Shirlington Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive (service road) west of Shirlington Road
  • S. Oxford Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Oakland Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Nelson Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 27th Street S. between Shirlington Road to S. Nelson Street

Parking has been contested along parts of S. Four Mile Run Drive in particular, with neighbors frequently complaining about the bevy of commercial vehicles along the stretch of road. The debate over parking in the area was a particular flashpoint during the deliberations over the area plan, with some Nauck leaders arguing that their concerns went ignored by county officials.

Notably, the county will ban commercial vehicles from parking on either side of the “minor” service road section of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the section of the road that intersects with S. Oxford Street and is home to a variety of cul-de-sacs lined with duplexes and other small homes. Parking there will otherwise be unrestricted or available for up to 24 hours.

Along the main, “major” stretch of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the northern side of the road will be off-limits for overnight parking, from 1o p.m. to 7 a.m., between the road’s intersection with Shirlington Road and S. Oakland Street. Currently, parking is restricted there only between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

On the rest of the northern side of Four Mile Run Drive through the road’s intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive, parking will be available around the clock. It’s also currently restricted from 7-9 p.m. currently.

On the southern side of Four Mile Run Drive, people will be allowed to park for up to 10 hours at a time, outside of the block between S. Nelson and S. Oakland streets, which will be two-hour parking. Much of that side of the road is currently unrestricted or limited to two hours of parking.

The county is also changing up the rules on the south side of 27th Street S., which will now have a 10-hour limit. Much of the curb space in front of the area’s WETA facility is currently unrestricted.

Other changes will also impact some of the side streets running off Four Mile Run, where new two-hour parking limits are planned.

County police say they plan to strictly enforce these new restrictions to improve conditions in the neighborhood, though some residents are skeptical that the department’s staffing challenges will allow officers to make much of an impact in policing the area’s parking.

County officials also expect to eventually add new sections of sidewalk and a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions along S. Four Mile Run Drive. They could even move ahead with more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park or the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

But first, the county plans to spend the next year or studying the impact of these new parking changes. The evaluation of that work will move in tandem with the planned changes at Jennie Dean Park, approved as part of the Board’s planning work for the area last spring.

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Arlington officials could soon advance zoning changes designed to make it easier for more childcare providers to open up shop in the county, as part of a lengthy push to increase access to daycare options for local parents.

County leaders have batted around a variety of potential changes for months now, but they finally seem ready to pass a suite of zoning tweaks impacting both large childcare centers and smaller “family daycare” homes. The proposals will go before the Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee for the first time tonight (Wednesday), and could make their way to the County Board sometime later this spring.

The Board previously approved a “Childcare Action Plan” last summer laying out some potential changes, including a new subsidy to help families afford daycare services. But it has long planned these additional zoning changes to encourage more childcare providers to move to Arlington, initially hoping to vote on them before the end of 2018 and address what officials see as the exorbitant cost of childcare in the county.

Despite the delay, officials now seem ready to advance the proposals, particularly after soliciting feedback from the community via online surveys and public gatherings in recent months. In all, the main potential zoning changes include:

  • Cutting back on parking requirements for new daycare facilities
  • Expanding the maximum number of children allowed in family daycare homes from nine to 12
  • Allowing small family daycare homes to educate nine children “by right,” without extensive county approval
  • Reducing the frequency of county permit reviews for daycare facilities

The parking changes may well prove to be the most impactful alterations that the county is considering, as many childcare providers say Arlington’s current standards make it a bit difficult for them to open new locations along the county’s Metro corridors.

Currently, the county requires that large childcare centers offer one parking space for each employee.

But staff subsequently discovered that many childcare employees aren’t driving to work — a December study by the county found that roughly 40 percent of parking spaces for childcare centers currently go unused, and a survey of local employees found that 36 percent commuted by using public transit, biking, carpooling or walking.

Accordingly, county staff are proposing requiring one parking space for every eight children attending a center, which should cut back on the number of parking spaces each one needs. The average daycare center in the county currently requires about 40 spaces using the employee-based ratio; the new proposal would cut that number back to about 25 spaces per location.

That would put Arlington more on par with parking requirements in Fairfax and Prince William counties, where daycares generally have 32 spaces and 24 spaces, respectively.

Staff are also suggesting that the Board allow additional parking reductions for centers hoping to locate near Metro and bus stations, letting companies apply for less parking as part of the process of earning a use permit from the county. For comparison, Alexandria lets childcare centers have as few as three spaces if they have access to transit options, while D.C. only requires five spaces for all centers.

The transit advocates over at Greater Greater Washington are especially enthusiastic about that section of the plan. The group’s development director, Pentagon City resident Jane Fiegen Green, praised the county for examining parking requirements in a recent blog post, and urged readers of the site to back changes to such “outdated” standards.

While the parking changes would largely impact centers educating dozens of children, many of the other proposed changes are aimed at loosening standards for smaller family daycare homes.

By bumping up the maximum number of children allowed in each facility to 12, the county would come into alignment with the standard outlined in state law. Arlington and Alexandria are currently the only localities in the D.C. area with a cap of nine children, staff wrote in a report for the zoning committee.

“Expanding the maximum number of children will increase Arlington’s potential child care supply, align with the maximum set by the state, provide potential additional revenue for providers and additional child care jobs in homes that are able to increase their capacity, increase opportunities for children to play together and help address the county’s lengthy child care wait lists,” staff wrote.

The recommendations also call for easing permitting requirements on small providers, as many are “intimidated” by the complex process of earning the county’s permission to set up childcare facilities. Staff found that centers with nine children or fewer regularly operate “without significant disruption to their surrounding neighborhoods,” so it would make sense to allow them to open up “by right” without extensive permits.

The proposed changes also include allowing small daycare homes with up to nine children in more dense sections of the county zoned for apartments, which could “expand the number of units eligible to operate a family day care home by approximately 3,220 units in Arlington County.”

So long as the zoning committee signs off on these zoning alterations, the County Board could order public hearings on the matter at its Feb. 23 meeting. The Planning Commission could then take them up on March 4, setting up a final Board vote on March 19.

File photo

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(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board has done away with parking restrictions on a handful of streets in two South Arlington neighborhoods, putting to rest a contentious dispute that has dragged on for years between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents.

The Board voted unanimously Saturday (Jan. 26) to end zoned parking on eight streets in the area. As part of the county’s “Residential Parking Program,” the county previously barred anyone without a permit from parking on the roads from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

The following streets, once part of the county’s “Zone 24” and stretching into sections of both Forest Glen and Arlington Mill, are now open for parking around the clock:

  • 6th Place S.
  • 7th Street S.
  • 7th Road S.
  • S. Florida Street
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Harrison Street (north of 7th Street S.)
  • S. Illinois Street
  • S. Jefferson Street

Arlington officials first zoned the streets off in 2016, largely due to Forest Glen residents arguing that too many drivers from outside the area were occupying the neighborhood’s limited parking spots. But residents of Arlington Mill said they started to feel the squeeze instead once that change was made, as it cut off street parking near the many apartment complexes in the neighborhood.

“Street parking in Arlington Mill became so scarce that it was rare to find a parking spot anywhere after 7 p.m.,” Austin McNair, an Arlington Mill resident who fought for the change, told ARLnow via email. “Anyone not working a traditional 9 to 5 job was now faced with the extra task of finding parking more than a mile away from their home. I can promise that this is the story for many families.”

Ordinarily, the county likely wouldn’t have waded into such a dispute — the Board put a two-year moratorium on any parking zone changes as it reviews the efficacy of the entire program, a process that isn’t set to wrap up until sometime early next year.

Yet the Board subsequently determined that county staff didn’t follow their usual process for setting up the zoned parking in the area, convincing officials that the parking restrictions both weren’t working well and that they were likely set up improperly in the first place.

“This was not a decision that we take lightly or came to easily… but the status quo is not acceptable,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “What this is all about, for me, is the efficient allocation of a public resource, which is on-street parking. I’m sorry that this is the least objectionable of lots of other bad options.”

Board members stressed that they’d urged staff to work out some sort of compromise position between the two neighborhoods over the past few months, perhaps by putting restrictions on one side of each street but freeing up the other side. But they could never quite find an acceptable solution to all sides, or manage to find one that county lawyers thought would hold up in court — the county’s parking restrictions were challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and officials have since been careful to limit the parking zones to the narrow intent of keeping commuters out of residential areas.

“While the neighborhood has grown in density, it has never been and is still not a destination for commercial customers or commuters who would be parking their cars to access public transportation,” McNair said.

The dispute has also turned a bit ugly in recent weeks. A community meeting the Board convened to discuss the matter drew plenty of raised voices, with some in Forest Glen arguing that the parking restrictions were necessary to prevent speeding, littering and other criminal activity in the neighborhood. Others in Arlington Mill, particularly some advocates for Latino residents, claimed those concerns were based in some deep-seated racial stereotypes.

That divide was evident at the Board’s gathering as well. Danny Cendejas, an activist on variety of local issues, told the Board that the current parking restriction “has discriminated against our neighbors,” while Forest Glen residents argued that reversing the restriction would harm their quality of life.

“I had to place trash cans in the middle of the street to slow down people who were racing to find parking while my three young children were riding their bicycles,” Brent Newton, a six-year resident of the neighborhood, told the Board. “When we were granted the [Residential Parking Program designation], our neighborhood became quiet, clean and tranquil. With utmost certainty, it will return to what it was before the RPP: speeding cars, trash and noise.”

While Board members sympathized with those concerns, they didn’t believe changing the parking restriction would make a difference on those fronts. Board member Libby Garvey suggested that they may be “related,” but she would rather see police step up enforcement in the area to address those worries.

Gutshall pointed out that his own neighborhood, near Clarendon, has parking restrictions in place, but still deals with its own share of littering issues as people flock to the area to reach nearby bars and restaurants. For him, and the rest of the Board, the parking staff’s missteps in evaluating the neighborhood for earning zone restrictions were more important to address.

Stephen Crim, the manager of the county’s parking program, told the Board that his staff discovered that they didn’t check license plates on the affected streets against records maintained by the county’s Commissioner of the Revenue, which tracks tax payments on property like vehicles. That means that staff didn’t necessarily have a full picture of how many people from outside the county were actually parking in the neighborhoods.

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(Updated Friday at 12:45 p.m.) New legislation working its way through the General Assembly could soon let Arlington, and other large Northern Virginia localities, start hiring private contractors to ticket parked cars for minor violations like expired license plates — but the lawmakers backing the bill say they introduced it for a slightly different purpose.

Currently, only county police can hand out such violations. But identical bills just introduced down in Richmond by state Sen. Dick Black (R-13th District) and Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67th District) could allow private parking enforcement staffers in large counties like Arlington to hand out those tickets too — if the localities opt in for the change.

At least, that’s how Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac reads the bill, according to a county spokeswoman. Specifically, he believes that the legislation “would allow Arlington to enforce expired plates and other such violations on parked vehicles, and to hire non-law-enforcement uniformed personnel to carry out such enforcement.”

“It would be up to the County Board, should this bill become state law, to decide whether it wants to take advantage of this broadening of the county’s authority,” Board spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.

But the bill’s backers say they introduced the legislation for to make a difference far outside of Arlington. Black and Delaney both represent portions of Loudoun County, where they’re targeting the change.

The legislation specifies that any locality with more than 40,000 residents has the power to hire contracted workers to enforce parking violations, rather than relying on police officers for that purpose. Current law only gives cities with more than 40,000 people that authority, leaving Loudoun and other large counties a bit stuck.

“This bars counties from contracting out enforcement services, forcing members of their already overworked police offices and other uniformed personnel to use their working hours checking parking hours and enforcing parking meters,” Delaney said during a House of Delegates subcommittee meeting last Thursday (Jan. 10).

As Loudoun prepares to welcome its first Metro stations in the coming years, with the Silver Line gradually expanding out to Dulles International Airport, county officials want to hire some extra help to enforce parking around the new stations. Jeffrey Gore, a lobbyist hired to represent Loudoun in the legislature this year, assured the Senate’s transportation committee yesterday (Wednesday) that plenty of other cities have made such a change, without incident.

“It’s not traffic violations, it’s just parking ordinances,” Gore told lawmakers. “Richmond does this, Virginia Beach does this. But Loudoun can’t do this, Fairfax can’t do this.”

But one outspoken political observer in Northern Virginia, political strategist Ben Tribbett, is blasting the bills as a “huge revenue grab” and compares them to another program in Fairfax County meant to step up the enforcement of car registration fee evasion.

An aide for Delaney did not respond to a request for an interview to discuss her bill, or Tribbett’s criticisms. However, county police spokeswoman Ashley Savage stresses that it wouldn’t have such an impact in Arlington, where police can already enforce such violations on parked cars.

Regardless of those claims, both bills are steadily advancing.

Black’s bill passed the Senate’s transportation committee on an 8-3 vote, and could soon head for a floor vote. Meanwhile, a House transportation subcommittee unanimously voted to advance Delaney’s bill, sending it to the full committee for review.

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(Updated at 8:15 p.m.) Arlington officials are gearing up to erase parking restrictions on several streets in the Forest Glen neighborhood, angering some residents there but meeting the demands of others in nearby Arlington Mill.

The County Board is set to consider a resolution later this month ending zoned parking restrictions along the following the roads, per county spokeswoman Katie O’Brien:

  • 6th Place S.
  • 7th Street S.
  • 7th Road S.
  • S. Florida Street
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Harrison Street (north of 7th Street S.)
  • S. Illinois Street
  • S. Jefferson Street

All of those streets are currently covered under “Zone 24” of the county’s residential permit parking program, barring unauthorized cars from parking there between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day.

The Board has generally avoided any changes to the program recently, after declaring a moratorium on applications for new parking restrictions while members weigh potential reforms to the county’s entire zoned parking system. Board members and some community leaders have started to doubt that the current program, originally designed to keep commuters out of D.C.-adjacent neighborhoods, is working as intended.

But the Board could soon make these changes in Forest Glen all the same, given the loud complaints from people in Arlington Mill.

According to a letter sent to Forest Glen residents from the Board, and provided to ARLnow, people in the neighborhood have “experienced great difficult with curbside parking” since the parking restrictions went into effect a few years ago. County staff have worked for months to find an “interim solution” to the dispute, without success, pushing the Board to take this step.

It doesn’t help matters either that staff believe the parking restrictions “depart from the program’s original intent and place an undue burden” on surrounding streets, the letter reads. The Board has since concluded that “the determination for the restrictions deviated from standard staff practices, including data collection and verification,” spurring the need for the change.

“The County Board is unwilling to allow restrictions to the public right of way continue considering the fundamental discrepancies in establishing the eligibility of the above streets for the RPP program,” Board members wrote.

But one Forest Glen resident, who requested anonymity for this article, claimed that neighbors had “myriad reasons” for requesting the parking restrictions in the area. Those ranged from concerns over “out of county parkers, unregistered and abandoned vehicles” to “crime” and “blocked driveways,” all of which, this person believes, meet the standards of the county’s parking rules.

The Forest Glen resident further argues that the Board would be taking an “unprecedented and historic” step by removing the parking restriction, which will “put all other RPP areas in Arlington at risk of being removed.”

“The removal of Forest Glen’s zone parking represents an unprecedented intervention by the County Board into administrative decisions of county government,” they wrote in an email. “Additionally, every RPP area now faces the increased likelihood of removal.”

O’Brien stressed in an email, however, that the Board’s proposed resolution “only applies to these streets in zone 24 and will not impact any other neighborhoods or zones.”

The Board is set to consider the matter at its Jan. 26 meeting, and plans to hold a community meeting on the subject tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. in the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

Meanwhile, the county is hoping to wrap up its review of the parking program sometime by the end of the year, or in early 2020, according to county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.

Photo via Google Maps

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As plans advance for the redevelopment of the American Legion post in Virginia Square, neighbors are raising a familiar question for developers in Arlington’s densest areas: what about parking?

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing hopes to eventually buy the 1.3-acre property at 3445 Washington Blvd and transform the current home of American Legion Post 139 into a building with 160 affordable apartments. The nonprofit would set aside space on the ground floor of the development for a new Legion post, and it even plans to reserve half of its homes for veterans.

APAH has been working to make the project a reality since the American Legion agreed to these plans back in 2016, and the proposal is very nearly ready to earn some key county approvals — the county’s Site Plan Review Committee will scrutinize the project at a meeting for the third time tonight (Monday), and the group could soon advance the proposal to the Planning Commission.

But it seems the nonprofit has yet to allay the concerns of nervous Ballston and Virginia Square neighbors worried that the new development will bring more cars parking on their streets.

“We are concerned that given the number of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments planned, the expectation that families will live in them, and the fact that our neighborhood does not have access to walkable elementary or middle schools, it’s not feasible to assume residents without a car or that even one car per unit will be sufficient,” Cara Troup, the treasurer of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, wrote in a Dec. 7 email to county staff.

APAH plans to build a one-story underground garage with 96 parking spaces in total, and the developer does acknowledge that it’s providing less parking than the county’s zoning standards demand.

However, the nonprofit believes that the development’s proximity to public transit options should mean that most residents won’t rely on cars. A transportation study of the site commissioned by APAH points out that the property may not quite be along a Metro corridor, but does sit “directly across” from the busy Fairfax Drive and its nearby Virginia Square Metro station.

APAH also sought to reassure the SPRC that it generally restricts residents to one car per household and will offer them reduced rates on bikeshare memberships, according to notes from the committee’s Dec. 10 meeting.

The nonprofit plans to set aside 20 spaces to serve visitors and staff for the American Legion post specifically, so it doesn’t expect that the group’s new headquarters (set to include new space for a variety of support services for veterans) will put a strain on parking on the area. But neighbors remain convinced that there just isn’t enough room for the people who will live in the new building, perhaps prompting more cars to push for space in the neighborhoods behind the development on 13th and 14th Street N.

Many of the streets in area are already subject to parking restrictions under the county’s permit program. But zoned parking in the county only bars unauthorized cars from neighborhoods from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays — the program was originally designed as a way to bar commuters from D.C.-adjacent areas.

That’s prompted Troup to push for new parking restrictions running from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, in order to ensure that APAH’s new residents don’t simply drive their cars to work and then park them on nearby streets at night. She even envisions that change coming as a condition of the county approving the development.

County officials are currently eyeing changes to the residential parking program as part of a two-year study of its efficacy, likely making any such change an uphill battle. But, until that work wraps up later this year, neighbors are adamant that they want to see more parking required for developments like APAH’s new building.

“Arlington’s zoned parking regulations need to be updated to reflect these present day conditions to include restricted parking into the evenings and on weekends,” Lyon Village Citizens’ Association  President John Carten wrote in a letter to county planners. “It may be the case that lifestyles and transportation options today are such that the parking ratios for certain projects do not need to be what they were in the past. However, until county parking policies are updated to increase restricted parking hours beyond the outdated business hours approach, Lyon Village and similarly situated neighborhoods are being put in a very difficult position when [asked] to support projects with parking ratios lower than historical norms.”

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Anyone planning on heading to Arlington National Cemetery for this weekend’s “Wreaths Across America” event might want to consider using public transit to get there, or prepare for some hefty delays.

ANC officials say they’ll be barring all personal vehicles from the cemetery’s grounds during the length of the annual wreath-laying event, set to run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 15).

They’re also planning on welcoming a larger number of volunteers at the event than in years past, prompting “numerous changes to ensure the safety and security of those who participate,” according to a press release. Accordingly, officials are urging participants to arrive promptly at 8 a.m., and rely on Metro, if at all possible.

“We encourage all volunteers to arrive early and recommend taking the Pentagon or Rosslyn Metro and walking into the cemetery,”ANC Operations Director Micheal Migliara wrote in a statement. “It’s a short, 15-minute walk from these stops and the most seamless way to access our hallowed grounds on this special day.”

ANC leaders are expecting so many people to use the cemetery’s Metro stop that they expect the other stations will be a bit easier for visitors to use. Anyone getting off at Rosslyn should enter through the cemetery’s Ord & Weitzel gate by walking along the N. Meade Street sidewalks, and anyone getting off at the Pentagon station should use the cemetery’s South Gate entrance.

General public parking will still be available at the Pentagon’s north parking lot (in lanes 50-60) and south parking lot (lanes 1-18), as well as at the Pentagon City Mall parking garage.

The Arlington National Cemetery Welcome Center parking garage, however, will only be available to “ANC Family Pass holders” who have preregistered for the event.

All the cemetery’s gates will open to the public at 8 a.m., followed by an opening ceremony inside the cemetery at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. The wreath laying is set to start by 9 a.m.

County police are also warning of traffic changes starting at 5 a.m., including:

  • Southgate Road, between Columbia Pike and S. Oak Street, will be closed and restricted to authorized vehicles only. Temporary no parking signs have been posted and vehicles in violation will be towed after noon today (Friday)
  • Marshall Drive, between N. Meade Street and Rt. 110, will be closed and restricted to shuttle bus traffic only.
  • Memorial Avenue, from Memorial Circle to the Ccmetery entrance will be closed.
  • Access to the Memorial Bridge from southbound George Washington Parkway and northbound Rt. 110 will also be closed.
  • Additional road closures will be implemented in locations along I-395, the G.W. Parkway, and the Pentagon Peservation by the Virginia State Police, U.S. Park Police, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
  • Other roads not listed may be closed for short duration at the discretion of law enforcement.

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Reardon

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A Pentagon City parking lot is jacking up some of its monthly rates, and some residents fear that Amazon’s impending arrival in the neighborhood is to blame.

Residents of the RiverHouse Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) were recently informed by their landlord that their monthly parking rates were about to jump substantially if they park their cars in the nearby Pentagon Row garage and surface lot. Starting Jan. 1, anyone from the apartment complex parking there will pay $100 month per space, up from $65.

The parking managed by Colonial Parking, not JBG Smith (RiverHouse’s owner, the area’s dominant real estate developer and a key player in bringing Amazon to the area). Accordingly, RiverHouse management lamented in a letter to residents, provided to ARLnow, that it isn’t able to control such a change.

“Please rest assured that this increase was just as much a surprise to us as this is to you,” General Manager Joe Mettee wrote.

Colonial Parking did not respond to a request for comment on what prompted the sudden increase. But Megan Niewold, a RiverHouse resident set to see her parking rates skyrocket, told ARLnow that she has her suspicions about their motivations.

“When I spoke to my garage attendant, he said they were notified because they want to prepare ‘National Landing’ for an influx of parking needs in the future,” Niewold wrote in an email. “It sure seems like they’re raising prices for Amazon’s arrival super early, which sucks because it’s making this place unaffordable for nonprofit workers/teachers/etc.”

Concerns over how the tech giant’s new headquarters, and its promised 25,000 workers, will transform the area are certainly nothing new.

The company’s selection of Arlington for half a new headquarters has already spurred development activity in both Pentagon City and Crystal City, and other such changes are surely on the way in the coming months. Though county officials are hoping a slew of new transportation options will encourage Amazon employees to opt for public transit instead, neighbors fear that the area is already facing a parking crunch, which will only be exacerbated by similar price increases.

“The belief is that because so many people take public transportation that it won’t be a problem; but for people who already live here, there’s already a problem,” Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller said during a town hall focused on Amazon this week.”Most of the spaces we have are only available at cost, and some street parking will disappear due to the Metroway expansion.”

The good news for people like Niewold, at least, is there are some other options. RiverHouse added in its letter that it’s knocking down some of its own parking prices for anyone frustrated with the Pentagon Row increases.

Photo via Google Maps

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Arlington officials have, at long last, approved a new planning document to guide the Four Mile Run Valley’s future, one of the last remaining steps for the county to take in the years-long debate over the area’s development.

The County Board unanimously signed off on new “area plan” for the Nauck valley on Saturday (Nov. 17), sketching out the county’s strategies for fostering the preservation and growth of industrial and arts-focused businesses in the area.

The plan also lays out a series of potential road and parking changes in the area, which have prompted some community consternation even as the planning process wraps up. Some Nauck leaders have previously expressed grave concerns that county officials aren’t listening to their suggestions for the area’s development, and that includes fears about the road changes on the way for S. Four Mile Run Drive.

“An important element is missing: trust,” Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark told the Board. “The county needs to work with us to repair the loss of trust… We were here before the planning process began, and we’ll be here long after.”

But Board members expressed broad satisfaction with the plan, despite those anxieties, arguing that the roughly three-year-long planning process delivered an outcome that will benefit the community for years to come.

“We’re going to all look back on this process, as occasionally challenging as it was, and see that this will be a true jewel for not only South Arlington, but the county as a whole,” said Board member John Vihstadt, the Board’s liaison to a working group convened to assemble the plan.

The Board previously adopted a broad “policy framework” guiding all manner of future changes to the area this spring. The working group and county staff then relied on that document to develop a parks master plan for the area, primarily focused on the overhaul of Jennie Dean Park, and then assembled the final area plan.

Among the document’s proposed changes are road alterations designed to make S. Four Mile Drive and some of its side streets more friendly for both cyclists and pedestrians, and free up more parking along the road. Changes will include new sections of sidewalk, a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions, as well as more robust parking restrictions and enforcement to encourage more turnover.

But those alterations will only be temporary, as the county examines whether they actually work. Officials could even initiate more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park and even the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

“There are still some concerns on the road changes… but the community has accepted the ‘test first, build later’ strategy,” said Charles Monfort, chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Yet Monfort’s leadership of the group attracted a public rebuke from one of his fellow vice chairs in a Washington Post opinion piece, as Robin Stombler argued that the public engagement process on all manner of issues was flawed — Monfort insisted Saturday that “anyone’s who wanted to speak has had many opportunities to do so.”

But Stombler and other Nauck residents charged that the parking changes are simply the latest example of the community’s concerns being cast aside. Clark pointed out staffing challenges in the Arlington police department means officers have less time to dedicate to traffic enforcement, making any pledge to step up the policing of parking violations on S. Four Mile Run Drive a hollow one.

“It makes no sense to test parking restrictions that will not be enforced and will actually increase parking turnover problems,” said Anne Inman, one of the Nauck Civic Association’s representatives on the working group.

Vihstadt also expressed some trepidation that the county is “really engaging in real time” on these issues, worrying that officials might “prioritize beauty and aesthetics over operational, on-the-ground needs for businesses and people who inhabit and do commerce in the valley.”

But county planner Richard Tucker reassured concerned neighbors, however, that the county is “going to move forward with understanding we’ll come back on this and make changes” after a year or so, if the parking plans aren’t working as intended.

“We test a little bit, we see what we learn and then maybe we expand that to other areas,” said Board member Erik Gutshall.

Beyond the parking changes, Tucker added that there are still few elements left to the planning work for the valley. In January, the county will kick off discussions on potentially adding an arts district to the area (a controversial point in its own right) and then convene a broader discussion on land use and zoning a few months later.

By and large, though, Board members hope the area plan’s adoption signals a major step forward for the county in charting out the valley’s future.

“When I walk down to Four Mile Run 25 years from now, the built environment will not look fundamentally different,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “And that speaks to this effort and what we all value about this area.”

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Though the biggest changes to the Four Mile Run Valley and its parks are still a few years out, Arlington officials are gearing up to make a few road changes in the area before major construction starts.

The county is planning some interim parking tweaks to free up space primarily along S. Four Mile Run Drive as it approaches Jennie Dean Park, in a bid to prepare for more substantial pedestrian and parking changes as the area evolves in the future. Officials are convening a community meeting to discuss the temporary changes tonight (Monday) at the Charles Drew Community Center (3500 23rd Street S.), starting at 7:30 p.m.

The affected roads up for discussion include:

  • S. Four Mile Run Drive major between Walter Reed Drive and Shirlington Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive minor west of Shirlington Road
  • S. Oxford Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Oakland Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Nelson Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 27th Street S. between Shirlington Road to S. Nelson Street

According to the county’s website, “the changes are designed to provide better access for residents, park users and businesses in the area,” and are included as part of the long-range planning documents the County Board is currently finalizing for the Four Mile Run Valley.

The 4MRV Area Plan, set to be considered by the Planning Commission on Wednesday (Nov. 7), calls for a full “reconfiguration” of S. Four Mile Run Drive, in order for the county to test out some changes to make the area a bit more pedestrian-friendly and free up parking around Jennie Dean Park. Additions will primarily include “paint, bollards and landscaped planters,” according to the draft document.

“This would create a temporary 10-foot sidewalk on the south side of the street, a pedestrian crossing island at the intersections of Nelson and Oxford streets, and curb extensions (with planters) along the corridor,” the plan says. “Parking lanes would still be provided on both sides of the street. This interim solution would allow the county to pilot the new street design and collect input/data on vehicle speeds and delay, pedestrian comfort, safety and access to businesses.”

As an example, the planning document points to the intersection of S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Walter Reed Drive, where the county is currently working on curb extensions and crosswalks to make the area more hospitable to cyclists and walkers alike.

The county anticipates that the interim changes will get set up this winter. County planner Richard Tucker even told the Transportation Commission last Thursday (Nov. 1) that some could be in place, “in the next several weeks,” so long as Monday’s meeting goes smoothly.

In the longer term, the area plan calls for “a parallel/angled parking strategy for Four Mile Run Drive with a concept for parallel parking on Arlington Mill Drive,” freeing up a bit more parking in an area that’s frequently in high demand.

“This concept creates more than 30 angled parking spaced immediately adjoining Jennie Dean Park,” the plan says. “Through regulatory and design changes, more than 250 additional spaces would be available during the daytime and evening. The cost of repainting streets in this configuration is far less than constructing new parking structures, and there may be opportunities for the county to explore shared parking agreements in existing nearby private parking garages.”

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