Arlington, VA

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

These are two of the changes to the program staff are proposing that the County Board adopt. The changes will be reviewed and refined before the Board votes early next year, and come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted.

“We are attempting to make compromises between disparate viewpoints and disagreements about how the program should be structured,” said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager, who fielded questions from residents during a virtual Q&A session last week.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

The benefit of paid parking over free, time-limited parking in residential zones — as is in place in parts of D.C. — is that “we make the parking easier to enforce for the police and make it more likely to be enforced regularly,” Crim said.

Permit and pass fees would be raised to pay for 100% of the program’s costs, whereas 40% of the costs to administer and enforce the RPP program currently come from general tax funding. Discounts on permits and passes would be available to low-income households . 

Staff recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, as well as reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Staff propose to remove the “out-of-area” test from the permit process, which requires would-be RPP zones to have a preponderance of commuters, shoppers or other people from outside the neighborhood taking up street parking spaces. Crim said that change is a way of “shifting the program into a more general parking management program.” 

Currently, the county needs to see that a block has 75% of spaces are occupied, of which at least 25% are occupied by out-of-area vehicles.

The RPP program has sharply divided residents. According to a recently released report, some of these divisions occur along the lines of race and class, as permitted residential street parking is disproportionately available to white, affluent Arlingtonians.

Residents of most apartment buildings are currently not eligible to receive RPP permits. More will be eligible under the proposed changes, but many will still be shut out if their building was approved by the County Board via a site plan or certain types of use permits.

Residents can see if their address currently qualifies for a permit through this link.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

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A proposal to return Arlington Court Suites Hotel to its original purpose, an apartment building, is slated to be considered by the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The 187 guest rooms at 1200 N. Courthouse Road would become 180 homes, possibly condominiums, according to an application filed by the property owner. This hotel-to-residential project is just a couple of blocks south of the Court House Metro station.

County staff are advising the board to approve the plan, which has been amended after Transportation Commission members argued that the original plans provided too much parking.

“Overall, the applicant’s proposal presents an opportunity to provide new housing units within a transit-rich neighborhood through the conversion of an existing building in a manner that is generally consistent with applicable County adopted plans and policies,” the staff report says.

One feature includes an upgraded and expanded pedestrian route making it easier to get to and from the Metro station and the Arlington Boulevard Trail. The route will also connect with nearby apartment and condo buildings, but will not be ADA accessible due to how steep the the grade is, the staff report says.

The project is exempt from providing mandatory affordable dwelling units, according to county staff.

“Given that the proposed density of the subject site plan is decreasing, and is a renovation of an existing building, the ADU provision does not apply,” the document says.

An apartment building was originally constructed on the site in 1962, and was turned into a hotel in 1980. In 2005, the County Board approved a plan to construct 252 new multifamily, townhouse and stacked residential units nearby, known currently as the Vista on Courthouse and the Bell at Courthouse.

The ratio of parking spots to dwellings for the renovated building has been the subject of scrutiny. In February, Transportation Commission members unanimously objected to the first iteration of the plan, which knocked the original 203 spots to 171.

The revised plan includes 150 spaces for a new parking ratio of 0.83 spots per unit. Many of those would be located on a surface parking lot, with the rest in a garage under the building. A county policy adopted in 2017 said parking at residences near Metro stations could be as low as 0.2 spaces per unit.

In a letter to the Board, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said his commission appreciates the reduced parking and added pedestrian route.

“That said, many commissioners remarked that they would support an even lower parking ratio given proximity to (the) Metro and encouraged the applicant to further reduce the amount of parking on-site, particularly the surface parking,” he wrote.

The County Board will meet virtually this Saturday, Oct. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m.

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Morning Notes

Changes Proposed to Rosslyn Development — “Arlington County Board members on [October] 17 will be asked to ratify relatively minor changes to the approved-in-2019 redevelopment of the Rosslyn Holiday Inn site. The request, if approved, would add residential units and delete hotel units from the project, while keeping the overall density of the project unchanged.” [InsideNova]

Today: Online Discussion With ACPD — “On Wednesday, October 14, 12-1 p.m., CPRO will be joined by members of the Arlington Police Department and County staff for our next Connecting & Collaborating Session: ‘Working Together to Keep Arlington Safe.’ We’ll be discussing safety concerns across the County and the effect on Columbia Pike.” [ARLnow Events, Zoom]

PMI to Settle JBG Parking Lawsuit — “Parking Management Inc. has agreed to pay at least $1.45 million and to take other measures to settle a lawsuit filed against it by an affiliate of JBG Smith Properties in response to the District-based parking operator’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy efforts.” [Washington Business Journal]

Suit Seeks to Extend Va. Voter Registration — “An accidentally severed fiber-optic cable in Virginia effectively shut down most of the state’s online voter registration on its last day Tuesday, prompting voter advocates to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking an extension of the deadline that they argue thousands of voters missed because of the disruption.” [Washington Post]

Northam Targeted By Militia Members — “The group of men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part an alleged terrorist plot also targeted Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the Detroit News reported Tuesday morning. An FBI special agent testified during a hearing in federal court that the three defendants had discussed ‘taking out’ a sitting governor, specifically mentioning Whitmer and Northam.” [Virginia Mercury, Press Release]

Nearby: Video of Shooting Released — “Detectives have released video footage related to a Sunday shooting in Bailey’s Crossroads as they continue to investigate. Officers responded to the Build America Plaza in the 3800 block of South George Mason Drive around 1:19 a.m. Sunday after several reports of gunshots. Not long afterward, Arlington County Police located a man with a gunshot wound.” [Patch, WTOP]

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If you live in the right type of home in the right place, Arlington County will reserve street parking for you and your neighbors for much of the day.

But the Residential Permit Parking program is under review and a county staff recommendation on whether it should continue as currently conceived is expected soon.

The review has dragged on since it was launched in 2017, when the county put a moratorium on approving new permit parking zones, and was further delayed by the pandemic. County officials, however, now say they’re going to skip holding more public engagement meetings on the topic, either virtual or in-person, and move forward with the aim of County Board action in January.

Meetings had been planned for the spring, but were cancelled due to health concerns. A county spokeswoman says county staff decided against additional meetings due to equity concerns.

“Staff looked into holding the dialogues online but decided that holding online dialogues would not be an adequate replacement,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien told ARLnow. “There are tools for holding the dialogues online, but there are challenges to bringing together a diverse group of Arlingtonians for a meeting of three hours or more online.”

“An inclusive group of participants at the dialogues would be especially necessary because residents are divided on the RPP program,” she continued. “The County could have waited until in-person public meetings resume but continuing to delay the RPP Review increases the chance that decision-makers will see the feedback currently captured as out-of-date. Delaying the review also continues the moratorium on petitions for new or modified restrictions.”

There are few issues that raise local passions like parking, and the RPP program has sharply divided residents.

The program started in the early 1970s, when Aurora Highlands residents successfully petitioned the Arlington County Board to approve restrictions that would keep Crystal City commuters from parking in the neighborhood. The county won a Supreme Court challenge to the restrictions and gradually expanded the program to other neighborhoods.

Eventually, residents of new apartment buildings and condos were excluded from the program, as access to street parking became a sticking point with neighbors of proposed new developments. And neighborhoods well away from Metro stations and office districts started getting approved for restrictions.

The tide started to turn against the program a few years ago, as more neighborhoods sought to add parking restrictions, raising questions about the fairness of reserving increasingly large portions of the public road network for the vehicles of certain residents.

Last year, the County Board repealed some RPP restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods, which apartment residents said made it difficult to park in the neighborhood for those who do not work a traditional 9-5 job. The decision was contentious, however.

A recently-released report on the RPP review process includes comments from surveys that further reflect the divide.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me who is eligible now. Higher density homes with less curb space should be eligible as single family homes,” said one resident quoted in the report.

“The County should NOT make apartment, condo, and townhouse residents eligible for parking permits because it will encourage more cars and further overcrowd parking resources,” said another.

The report notes that the population eligible for RPP skews whiter and more affluent than those who are not eligible. White residents are 84% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 76% of the population outside of RPP zones. Households making $200,000 or more are 32% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 19% in non-RPP zones.

Furthermore, only 25% of those enrolled in RPP live in multifamily buildings like apartments and condos; by comparison, 71% of Arlington’s overall population lives in multifamily housing.

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You may have noticed it while going by: a seemingly random blue trailer in the middle of a decaying parking lot between the Clarendon Whole Foods and the PNC Bank.

What you might not have realized at the time is that your next meal might be coming from there.

The trailer belongs to REEF Kitchens, which is part of a company focused on turning thousands of underutilized, urban parking lots around the country into food and logistics hubs. It serves as a “ghost kitchen,” producing meals for a number of virtual “restaurants” available on food delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates and Grubhub.

A full kitchen crew works out of the trailer, which is positioned to be close to a large, dense population and convenient for delivery drivers, who don’t need to double park or dodge dine-in customers while picking up meals.

REEF currently has only one location in Arlington, but is scouting out more here and around the D.C. area.

“Our Neighborhood Kitchen on Wilson Blvd is REEF’s first, and currently only, Neighborhood Kitchen in the Arlington area,” said a PR rep for the company, in response to inquiries from ARLnow. “REEF currently operates two parking facilities in the Arlington area and close to 80 locations in the greater DMV… I think it’s fair to say we’re growing quickly and are adding new locations all the time.”

Each kitchen cooks for 5-6 restaurant brands, serving up to 80-100 delivery orders per day and offering 20-35 minute delivery times. The trailers — along with waste bins and portable bathrooms — require 6-8 parking spaces apiece, in addition to utility connections, according to a slide deck obtained by ARLnow. The company sometimes groups multiple trailers together in the same parking lot.

REEF currently employs 10 people in Arlington, the rep said, though that is significantly fewer than would be required to run five separate bricks-and-mortar restaurants. Fewer employees, close proximity to a critical mass of potential customers, and the lack of a physical building means more sales and lower costs, something that’s hard for restaurants struggling through the pandemic to compete with — particularly given the fees collected by the delivery apps.

But REEF says it is looking to unlock opportunities for restaurants and local entrepreneurs through its model.

“REEF Neighborhood Kitchens leverage the power of proximity through the company’s network of parking lots to allow food entrepreneurs, local restaurants, and national restaurant brands to open and quickly expand their delivery businesses,” said the rep. “Neighborhood Kitchens help to reduce the barriers and costs associated with traditional brick and mortar restaurants either by helping to expand an existing restaurant’s delivery radius, or by allowing food entrepreneurs to get their business off the ground without the barriers to entry of the traditional restaurant industry. ”

He added that the kitchens follow stringent food handling, cleaning and COVID-19 safety protocols, and that customers “benefit from the added convenience of expanded delivery areas and quicker delivery.”

REEF, which released a video (below) that shows its holistic vision for turning parking lots into bustling neighborhood logistics hubs, says its model represents the future — a reimagined melding of technology and the physical world.

“We believe a parking lot can be more than a place to store a car,” the company said in a presentation. “A parking lot can be a hub for the community, connecting people to the businesses, services, and experiences that make a neighborhood thrive.”

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Morning Notes

About Last Night’s Flyover — The two fighter jets that flew low and loud over Arlington last night, startling many, were participating in a flyover for the dedication of the new Eisenhower Memorial in D.C. [Twitter, Twitter]

Big Crane Coming to Amazon HQ2 Site — “There will be tower crane erection work this weekend, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 and 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 20. Work will be completed no later than 9 p.m. each day.” All southbound traffic on S. Eads Street will be detoured. [Twitter]

No PARK(ing) Day — “Arlington County will not be hosting annual PARK(ing) Day events tomorrow due to COVID-19 precautions. But feel free to imagine the possibilities of drab, curbside asphalt turned into unique community spaces.” [Twitter]

Barr Speech in Arlington Makes News — “Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that the Justice Department has recently acted ‘more like a trade association for federal prosecutors than the administrator of a fair system of justice’ and equated some prosecutors to preschoolers and ‘headhunters’ […] in a speech at Hillsdale College’s annual Constitution Day Celebration, which this year was held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.” [NBC News]

New Fire Engines for ACFD — “The Arlington County Fire Department recently took delivery of two new Pierce Manufacturing pumpers, which went into service with Engine 105 and Engine 109. The twin pumpers have a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and carry 750 gallons of water and 30 gallons of firefighting foam.” [InsideNova]

Virtual Award Gala Next Week — “Please join us for the 2020 Spirit of Community celebration on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM. This year, the Arlington Community Foundation will be honoring Arlington’s front-line human service workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic with the 2020 William T. Newman, Jr. Spirit of Community Award.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Fairlington 5K Goes Virtual — “Having canceled its traditional event in April, organizers of the Fairlington 5K have announced plans for a ‘virtual’ race on Saturday, Oct. 3. Participants will have one week to compete in the event, which will support Fairlington resident Ellie McGinn, a young girl born with the rare brain/spinal cord disorder LBSL. Additional funds raised from the event will support Abingdon Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

More Accessible Parking in Busy Areas — “The County has installed an additional 60 ADA-accessible on-street parking spaces for a total of 212. The spaces — located throughout eight areas of high residential and business density — feature meters with near field communication (NFC), allowing customers to pay by waving a smartphone within a short distance. The adjusted parking areas also allows for easier access to popular areas throughout the County.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Cafe Serves Kids for Free — “When local schools closed in March — and their cafeterias along with them — Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe began offering free weekday lunches to school-age kids on a walk-in basis. As of late July, the restaurant had provided nearly 3,000 such meals.” [Arlington Magazine]

Yglesias on Arlington Housing — “How much study do you need to know that houses are expensive in Arlington and most of the country is zoned to make adding units illegal?” [@mattyglasias/Twitter]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single-lane closures on eastbound I-66 just before the bridge over Lee Highway (Route 29) at Exit 72 will occur (weather permitting) between 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21 and 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 24 for road repairs.” [VDOT]

Reminder: Ballston Taco Bamba Opening — “The new 1,500 square foot restaurant is the fifth Taco Bamba in Virginia. Set to open on Thursday, Aug. 20, the takeout taqueria will feature ‘a bar program, a small patio and a brand-new menu of nuestros tacos, in addition to the taqueria’s traditional favorites.'” [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

County Launches COVID Dashboard — “Just launched: Arlington’s COVID Data Dashboard with comprehensive information on cases by age, race and zip code; trends in % pos testing; date of symptom onset; and more. Track the course of the pandemic with us, here. And stay safe and mask up!” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Shirlington Parking Challenges — “Shirlington has significant amounts of surface and garage parking, but much of it is restricted during working hours to ensure employees have a place to park. (Many, though not all, of those spaces become available to the general public after 5 p.m.) ‘There’s lots of parking – [but] what’s there isn’t allocated very well,’ County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said.” [InsideNova]

Justice Reform Discussion Tomorrow — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) and Arlington Young Democrats will host a Facebook Live forum at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 23, in advance of a special session of the General Assembly set to begin Aug. 18 that will largely be devoted to criminal justice reform.” [Arlington Democrats]

New Chief Race and Equity Officer Discusses Role — “This position focuses on leading, coordinating and overseeing county organizations and partnering with the community to advance racial equity. To me, this entails focusing on systems and our organizational structure and really how racism presents itself — in our policies, our practices, how we interact and engage with the community.” [Arlington Magazine]

New Office Tenants in Ballston — “CropLife America, The Fertilizer Institute and the Agricultural Retailers Association have signed a 15-year lease for 25,564 square feet to co-locate in Ballston Exchange, a 776,000-square-foot mixed-use office and retail mixed-use project.” [Commercial Observer]

Other School Systems Go Online-Only — Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Montgomery County public schools are joining Arlington in going online-only to start the semester. [DCist, WJLA, Loudoun Times-Mirror, Bethesda Beat]

Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster

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Amid the pandemic, Arlington County is sifting through which planning processes are ready to continue moving forward and which ones are being delayed.

The County recently announced that it is still moving forward with plans for updating guidelines for development in Pentagon City, a relatively time-critical issue with Amazon’s permanent HQ2 under construction nearby.

The county’s Lee Highway planning process is also moving forward, with public workshops fortuitously wrapping up before the pandemic hit Arlington. Like the Pentagon City plan, the Lee Highway process is endeavoring to shape how new development takes place along the corridor. The central theme is, over time and through land use policies, replacing the car-focused strip malls along the corridor with clusters of mixed-use development that could bring in more housing, particularly affordable housing.

“Since the Plan Lee Highway public workshop in February, the County’s planning team synthesized what they heard and shared those results with the community late March,” Jessica Margarit, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development said. “Using that input, they have been busy developing the Neighborhood Character Report and the Cultural Resources Survey report. They anticipate publishing these by the end of July.”

Those closely following the Resident Permit Parking (RPP) Review project, though, might be disappointed to learn that project has hit some delays. The RPP restricts on-street parking near Metro corridors and other high-demand areas to residents and their guests during certain times of the day. The program has been criticized for favoring single-family homeowners over apartment dwellers, many of whom don’t have access to the same permits.

Staff had started planning for open houses and discussions early this year, but those plans were waylaid by the pandemic.

“The Residential Permit Parking Review project has been delayed due to the pandemic,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “The County had to postpone the deliberative dialogues and open house that were scheduled for early spring 2020. Staff is in discussion with leadership on how best to proceed given the current situation. An update will be posted on the project website once we have more information.”

Image via Arlington County

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Arlington has been removing some parking spaces to facilitate the expansion of outdoor dining in two local neighborhoods.

The County Board approved a process for restaurants to apply for expanded, temporary outdoor dining areas in late May. Since then, county crews have blocked off street parking spots in six places to allow pedestrians to better get around the sidewalk cafes.

According to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, the repurposed parking spaces are located in the Shirlington and Clarendon areas, including:

  • Washington Boulevard between Wilson Blvd and 13th St N, about 2 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Cleveland St and N Danville St, about 4 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Hudson St and N Irving St, about 6 parking spaces
  • S Campbell St between S Arlington Mill Dr and S Quincy St, all on-street parking spaces
  • West side of S Randolph St immediately south of S Campbell St, a few spaces (exact number not available at this time)
  • West side of S Quincy St immediately south of S Campbell St (exact number not available at this time)

Crews were seen blocking off the Shirlington parkings areas Monday morning.

DES spokesman Peter Golkin said additional parking spaces may be repurposed as restaurants apply for Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs), though no additional, specific locations are currently planned.

“We are creating pedestrian space around outdoor seating as restaurants apply for outdoor seating,” Golkin said.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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