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(Updated 09/30/22) As Arlington County continues collecting feedback on the preliminary concept plan to turn Langston Blvd into a “Green Main Street” over several decades, a few disagreements have emerged.

Some say county staff need to coordinate more with existing plans for two neighborhoods along Route 29, as well as the Missing Middle Housing Study. Others say the building heights should be taller — to allow for more affordable housing — or are too tall already.

Late in August, Arlington County released a draft plan showing what Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, could look like if the county encouraged denser housing and more walkable, greener streets, and planned for future infrastructure, transportation and facility needs. Since then, the county posted an online feedback form and launched in-person feedback opportunities called Design Studio sessions and virtual neighborhood meetings.

More than 200 people have attended the three virtual community meetings and Design Studio sessions, and more than 200 people have responded to the feedback forms, Rachel LaPiana, a staff member with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, tells ARLnow.

“We encourage the community to provide feedback on a set of specific questions about what is proposed in the PCP and attend one of the upcoming community events,” she said.

There are still a number of opportunities to learn more about Plan Langston Blvd and provide feedback, which staff will collect through early November. This Saturday, the Langston Boulevard Alliance will host a walking tour, during which county planners will be able to answer questions. Another tour will be held on Sunday, Oct. 16.

The Langston Boulevard Alliance is also hosting three Design Studio sessions, held from 12-2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 and 21 and Nov. 4 at its office (4500 Langston Blvd). A fourth virtual community meeting discussing housing, stormwater and transportation will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 7-9 p.m.

It’s too soon to summarize the substance of the feedback that has been collected, LaPiana said.

“Once the engagement period ends, we will compile and analyze all of the community feedback,” she said.

Differing takes have since surfaced during a debate for County Board candidates held by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, as well as during this month’s County Board meeting.

“I’ve largely heard muted feedback, and that is not always the case with plans,” said County Board member Matt de Ferranti, who’s running for re-election this November, during the debate earlier this month. “I have heard a number of compliments. I actually think the plan is in decent shape.”

But, he said, the plan challenges the county’s ability to advance multiple planning fronts simultaneously, including the controversial Missing Middle Housing initiative, in which the county is considering whether to allow townhouses, duplexes and other low-density housing types in residential areas zoned exclusively for single-family homes.

“We have to, at least in my view, do them separately, because we can give our community full chance for engagement,” he said.

Independent candidate Audrey Clement questioned why upzoning is needed at all, with the bevy of new housing units proposed in Plan Langston Blvd and envisioned in the approved Pentagon City Planning Study, which, like Plan Langston Blvd, calls for significant, mostly residential redevelopment and more designated green spaces.

“We have something called a siloed process, where we have three plans, each ignorant of each other, that will increase housing on a massive schedule. That doesn’t make sense,”  Clement said. “These plans should not be developed in a vacuum, but that appears to be what is happening right now.”

East Falls Church homeowner Wells Harrell told the County Board this month that Plan Langston Blvd ought to examine why development has lagged in East Falls Church and Cherrydale, despite the fact both underwent planning efforts in 2011 and 1994, respectively.

“Metro today remains surrounded by parking lots at the East Falls Church Metro station, and so far, there’s only been one — one —  residential development since the plan was adopted in 2011,” Harrell said. “We need to take stock of why we haven’t achieved the goals set forth in the Cherrydale and East Falls Church area plans… in order to not just learn from the lessons we had there, but to guide us going forward and make sure we achieve the visions for Langston Blvd.”

A detached garage across from the East Falls Church Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County planners previously told ARLnow that they need the County Board’s go-ahead to revisit the East Falls Church plan. Further discussion about encouraging development in the area could come after the Board adopts a final Plan Langston Blvd document.

For now, plan authors say a final Plan Langston Blvd draft will recommend whether the existing redevelopment roadmaps for East Falls Church and Cherrydale need to be reviewed and refined.

Building heights are another source of disagreement. Plan authors write that building heights were lowered in response to some critical community feedback. That criticism also suggested the changes would diminish the stock of market-rate affordable apartments, lower property values, change neighborhood character and push out small businesses.

County staff say that lower heights may satisfy some residents, but it will slow down redevelopment.

“Staff believes the proposed concept plan will offer incentives for redevelopment, however, the levels are only moderately different from what is allowed for by-right development and site plan projects,” county planner Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed said in a video introducing the plan. “This means that we may see more by-right development, and improvements such as streetscape enhancements may take longer to be realized or happen in a fragmented way.”

And the changes dismayed pro-density advocates, including Harrell and independent County Board candidate Adam Theo.

“I am disappointed to see that the most recent draft has scaled a lot of that back,” Theo said.

De Ferranti, meanwhile, says there is one neighborhood where the heights may still be “a touch too high” — the area near Spout Run Parkway, where plan calls for buildings 12-15 stories tall.

“That decision is one we have to engage as a community on,” he said.

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The new preliminary concept plan for Langston Blvd envisions the corridor’s transformation over several decades into a “Green Main Street.”

The extensive plan — which has been in the works for years — calls for land use changes along the former Lee Highway, with the aim of encouraging re-development over time, though the proposed zoning changes are not quite as drastic as what had been discussed last year.

“The new recommended building heights are generally two to three stories lower than were considered in the 2021 [Land Use Scenario Analysis],” said the plan, a 135-page document filled with small text and large renderings. “While it may take longer to implement the vision and improvements along Langston Boulevard may happen intermittently, the plan provides options for property owners to execute the plan’s vision and recommendations.”

Should the vision be realized, the corridor’s ubiquitous, aging strip malls and large surface parking lots would be replaced with taller, more walkable hubs of social and economic activity.

The Lyon Village Shopping Center could be turned into a 12-15 story mixed-use development, with the current Giant grocery store and The Italian Store on the ground floor, looking out on a bike path that connects to the Custis Trail and a reconfigured intersection of Langston Blvd, N. Kirkwood Road and Spout Run Parkway.

The Lee Heights Shops, home to Arrowine and Pastries by Randolph, may remain largely as-is, but with mixed-use developments of up to seven stories and pedestrian promenades around it.

Another nearby landmark, Moore’s Barber Shop, could also remain in its current building, but next to a five-story apartment building an an outdoor cafe, rather than parking lots and a car care center. Across the street, however, the McDonald’s could make way for a new public school and other public infrastructure, alongside a renovated Langston-Brown Community Center.

Further down the road, the busy shopping centers surrounding the intersection of Langston Blvd and N. Harrison Street — currently anchored by Harris Teeter and Safeway grocery stores — could become mixed-use centers of housing and ground-floor retail, up to 7 stories.

In addition to the current mix of restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses, the plan calls for other types of commercial tenants, including coworking spaces, fitness centers, hotels, and childcare providers.

Langston Blvd itself, also known as Route 29, would become more pedestrian oriented, with street trees, wider sidewalks and some bike infrastructure. Two vehicle lanes would be maintained in each direction, but often without the center median. Where bike lanes or a shared use path are not possible, the plan calls for parallel bike routes, including along 22nd and 26th streets.

“The vision for Langston Boulevard is corridor-wide and is based on the community’s desire to transform the corridor into a resilient, renewable, and re-energized place by 2050,” the plan says. “The Preliminary Concept Plan is informed by the community’s aspirations and priorities and the unique characteristics, challenges, and opportunities for achieving the vision in each of the neighborhood areas.”

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Sparks flew during the County Board meeting on Saturday (June 18), where supporters and opponents of the proposed missing middle housing framework faced off.

Supporters of the proposal like YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, which supports denser housing options, filled rows of seats at the meeting. They held up signs saying “Missing middle yes,” “Arlington is for everyone” and “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

Meanwhile, opponents like Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) — an advocacy group against increased housing density — packed the other side of the room. They held up signs saying “The Arlington way has gone astray” and “Save our neighborhood. No upzoning here. No duplexes+ here.”

Wells Harrell, who spoke in support of the proposed changes to housing policy — which would allow smaller-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently zoned only for single-family homes — said it gave more people the choice to live in Arlington. He said the policy was also popular among renters, people of color, and younger generations like Millennials.

“We see 170 homes torn down every single year, do you choose to let some of those homes be replaced with missing middle homes that add more variety, increase more capacity and cost less than the big expensive mansions that would go up instead?” he said during the County Board’s public comment period.

On the other hand, Anne Bodine, who spoke on behalf of ASF, said increasing housing density would displace long-term residents with an influx of “mostly whiter and wealthier newcomers” and raise housing costs “through inflated land values.”

“We ask you to postpone the missing middle work session until September, project total population increase of maximum missing middle buildout along with other density measures taken since 2018, and prepare forecast comparing impacts of current zoning on the environment, the budget and demographic outcomes,” she said.

In a subsequent press release, ASF said its supporters “berated the Board” for “a pursuit of ‘density first’ [that comes] at a very great social and financial cost.”

Emotions ran so high as to elicit boos and shouts for speakers like Harrell and for County Board Chair Katie Cristol, when she cut off another speaker for violating the “one speaker per topic” rule.

(Other speakers were able to get around the rule, however, by talking about their concerns on the effects of increased housing density on schools and the county budget.

Stacy Meyer, representing the Arlington County Civic Federation, said her organization would like to see the County Board reach out to adjacent neighborhoods and their civic associations when reviewing upzoning proposals and General Land Use Plan amendments.

The Civic Federation believes upzoning “frequently entails encroachment into lower density residential neighborhoods” and that “residents have no approval rights and little leverage for negotiation” in the face of proposed upzoning, according to a resolution passed by the organization.

A draft missing middle housing policy framework calls for allowing multifamily housing from townhouses to eight-plexes, depending on lot size, provided the building does not exceed the size currently allowed for single-family homes. Current zoning in Arlington restricts most residential land to building only single-family homes.

The County Board did not respond to the arguments raised on the proposed housing policy during the meeting. A work session on the policy is scheduled on Tuesday, July 12, according to the County Board’s website, while the online feedback form for phase two of the Missing Middle Housing Policy is open, according to the study’s website.

Should the Board vote next month to advance to the next phase of the Missing Middle Housing Study, it could set up a vote on zoning changes by the fall.

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Take a drive through Fairlington and you will see sprawling acres of modest Colonial Revival-style condominiums with manicured lawns.

Once, they were garden apartments and townhouses, built between 1942 and 1944 to house the masses of defense workers who flocked to Arlington during World War II.

The complex is one marquee example of Arlington’s World War II-era garden apartments. Other examples include Arlington’s first complex, Colonial Village, and its second, Buckingham Village.

While denser than exclusively single-family-zoned neighborhoods, they are roomier, greener and lower to the ground than mid- to high-rise developments along Arlington’s Metro corridors. That is, they fit the definition of “Missing Middle” housing stock that Arlington County is looking to increase.

Today, Arlington is once again facing a housing crunch, one that is expected to tighten as Amazon hires more workers and companies spring up in its orbit. Garden apartments were once a solution to Arlington’s housing problems 80 years ago. But as Arlington County considers a plan for allowing “Missing Middle” housing in all residential area of the county, the “Missing Middle” of 80 years ago — these low-rise, gentle density developments — are worth a look.

Arlington’s housing history

Garden apartments first came online in the 1920s and were billed as a more spacious and light-filled alternative to denser, taller tenement housing, says George Mason University Mercatus Center fellow Emily Hamilton, who studies housing and development.

“Their setting, in park-like areas, was also shaped by the ‘garden city‘ movement, which started in the UK and was influential in the U.S. and based on the belief that urban housing should be surrounded by greenery, even in the city,” Hamilton said said. (Reston is nearby example of a planned “garden city.”)

But that trend didn’t pick up in Arlington until 1935, when 245 Colonial Revival-style buildings were built on 55 acres and named Colonial Village, writes Gail Baker, a former member of the Arlington County Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Construction began on Arlington’s second complex, the 100-acre Buckingham Village, in 1937, and was completed in the 1950s.

Hamilton says demand shifted toward single-family homes in the mid-century, as living standards and federal financing made buying a house more feasible.

As a result, garden apartments became a “starter option” for families, according to historian Charlie Clark.

“A lot of Arlingtonians who are middle-aged homeowners got their start in the garden apartments in the 40s and 50s,” he said. “Then, they ambitiously rose the economic scale, and wanted a single-family home with a yard, and ended up in other neighborhoods.”

By the 1970s, as the regional population grew and Metro was built these garden apartments faced development pressure. Colonial Village was broken up: some units were conserved, others were converted in condos, and still others were razed and turned into office buildings.

The county preserved Buckingham through an affordable housing deal and the units at Fairlington Villages were converted into condominiums and sold. One selling point was that their Colonial Revival façades were maintained, Baker writes.

Fifty years later, garden apartments are some of the last affordable dwellings to rent in the county in part because the buildings are dated, Hamilton says. And development pressure is mounting, as these buildings are reaching the end of their useful lives.

“It’s interesting,” Clark said. “They were probably considered middle-class when they were built, but they probably have declined a little bit in terms of economics.”

A collection of them near Rosslyn, on N. Ode Street, will be redeveloped as a high-rise affordable housing complex. Meanwhile, the owners of a similar complex along Columbia Pike will be redeveloping its property with townhouses.

Arlington County pre-empted speculative redevelopment of a third garden apartment complex, the Barcroft Apartments, by brokering a deal with Amazon and developer Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, which agreed to preserve 1,334 units on the site as committed affordable units for 99 years.

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Slide from Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Some “missing middle” housing types would be legalized in residential zones throughout Arlington, under a draft proposal released late last week.

The framework is the latest output of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study, which has been ongoing since October 2020. The study concluded that allowing housing that’s denser but no larger than single-family homes currently allowed under zoning would increase housing supply while diversifying housing types and providing a net environmental benefit.

The recommendations will now be subject to what is likely to be a contentious community engagement and feedback process, expected to be followed by County Board action to amend the local zoning ordinance this fall.

If ultimately approved, the new zoning rules would be similar to those that passed in Minneapolis and Portland to considerable fanfare and White House interest.

Specifically, the framework calls for dwellings with up to eight housing units in most of Arlington’s residential zones. The size of the structure would be subject to existing rules for single family homes, though existing requirements for on-site parking could be reduced.

The maximum number of units would scale down with the lot size, from a simple duplexes to townhomes and triplexes, up to an 8-plex on a relatively large lot.

“Missing Middle Housing (MMH) types with up to 8 dwellings can fit within the same footprint, placement, and height standards as single-detached housing,” said the proposal. “Applying single-detached standards to MMH can minimize or eliminate environmental impacts, compared to status quo redevelopment.”

That represents a significant change from Arlington’s current zoning, which restricts most of the non-federal land in the county to only single-family homes. A county spokeswoman noted that while the proposed zoning changes would increase flexibility for property owners seeking to build, it would not force owners to change anything if they don’t want to.

“The draft framework would add housing type options in the County’s zoning districts that currently only allow single-detached housing and accessory dwelling units,” said Erika Moore, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “It does not eliminate any housing options that currently exist.”

Also not changing: neighborhoods that currently allow duplexes and townhouses.

“Framework provides an opportunity to welcome potentially more neighbors within a similar building footprint,” said the presentation. “Neighborhoods that are predominantly duplexes and townhouses today (e.g., Arlington Mill, Green Valley, Penrose) and other mixed-use areas would not be impacted.”

Despite the big change, the study suggests that the actual impact on new housing would be modest.

“MMH has inherent economic disadvantages compared with large single-detached homes, including increased costs to build, increased complexity for ownership and sales, and lack of familiarity in the market,” said last week’s presentation. “Based on the financial feasibility and study of other jurisdictions, only approximately 20 lots per year would become ‘missing middle’ (94-108 units).”

That would work out to about 150 additional residents per year over the course of ten years.

While not affordable to lower income households, the new housing is expected to be affordable to more residents than what would be built under current single-family-only zoning, which the presentation says incentivizes construction of large, expensive homes.

“Expected outcome is a wider range of housing types at lower prices than what is currently available,” the study said. “New housing types would be attainable for households with incomes from $108,000-$200,000+. Housing designs would be of a scale consistent with single-household redevelopment already occurring.”

News of the framework was cheered online by those who have been advocating for denser housing in Arlington.

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Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.

The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.

The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.

Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.

“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.

Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.

The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.

The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.

The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.

Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

Clarendon Sector Plan update area (via Arlington County)

“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”

She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”

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A four-story apartment building proposed for Green Valley is wending its way through Arlington County review processes.

The project would redevelop a gravel and asphalt parking lot at 2608 Shirlington Road with 27 market-rate units and three affordable ones atop ground-floor retail and a 38-space parking garage built into the hillside. Tenants will have access to a rooftop deck and pool.

Currently, the property is surrounded by warehouses, low-rise townhouses, a barbershop and a funeral home.

The property owner, Shirlington Investments, is seeking to buy a sliver of land from Arlington County to expand the property lines slightly. Approvals for that purchase are concurrent to the proposed development review process.

The property falls within the Green Valley Village Center Revitalization District and is subject to different standards for urban design, building heights, affordable housing and streetscape, county planner Kevin Lam said during a recent Site Plan Review Committee meeting.

“The Green Valley Village Center Action Plan outlines a vision for revitalizing the Green Valley community by encouraging mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development centered around the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square,” he said.

This project would be a quarter-mile from the town square, which is slated to wrap up at the end of this month, according to a project webpage.

Describing high ceilings, tall windows and the contrasting light and dark brick façades, project architect Lisa Clark said her firm has “tried to design this project to reinforce the industrial-arts focused vision laid out in the Four Mile Run Area Plan.”

Green Valley Civic Association Vice-President Robin Stombler says the association is “enthusiastic” about this project.

“We think it fits very well with our plan for the community and we do encourage its approval,” she said. “We do want to state publicly the applicant has been communicative, accessible and has addressed issues we have raised over time. For all those reasons we do welcome them to Green Valley and hope their project is approved.”

Unlike typical development projects going up in Arlington, this one is being processed as a use permit through a special process called a Unified Commercial Mixed-Use Development (UCMUD).

Such projects are reviewed according to standards that emphasize predictability, architectural style and streetscape design, similar to the form-based code projects approved along Columbia Pike, Lam said. Another example of a UCMUD in Green Valley is The Shelton apartment building, built in 2009.

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Concerns are emerging about a proposed residential redevelopment that would replace the Macy’s in Ballston.

Insight Property Group proposes to demolish the longtime department store and vacant office building at 685 N. Glebe Road and replace it with a 16-story, 555-unit apartment complex atop a grocery store. In response to online engagement, it is adding a second, 1,400-square-foot retail space on the ground floor.

The units would be spread across two 14-story towers joined at the penthouse level. Residents would have 250 underground parking spaces while grocery store patrons would have 148 spots on the building’s second story.

Insight is considering how to celebrate the building’s history as part of the D.C. area’s first indoor regional shopping center, built in 1950, possibly by preserving some tiling and stairwells.

But during the first Site Plan Review Committee meeting last week, the proposal elicited apprehension from community members about density, from Planning Commissioners about community benefits, and county planners about cohesion with the rest of the mall.

Insight proposes to use two mechanisms to earn the right to build 275 additional units on top of the base density allowed for the site of 280 units. First, by using a novel zoning tool called a Transfer of Development Rights, it can tack on another 236 units.

The TDR rewards developers who commit to preserving affordable housing, open spaces, historic sites and community facilities on Columbia Pike. In exchange for this commitment, they can either build double the number of preserved units elsewhere in the county, or build triple the units preserved elsewhere on the Pike.

Insight proposes preserving 118 units of garden apartments on Columbia Pike as affordable for 30 years so it can tack on 236 extra units to its Ballston Macy’s project. Some civic association leaders oppose this, however.

“This is a dangerous precedent and should never be done,” said Bernie Berne, representing the Buckingham Community Civic Association, which voted to oppose this aspect of the project. “Keep it to Columbia Pike — find a place to transfer the units in Columbia Pike. There’s no reason to put it in Ballston.”

Representing the Arlington Mill Civic Association, Cate Harrington said the group also opposes the TDR.

“It commits that entire area to being the same for 30 years, which we object to, we would like our area to grow and change organically,” she said.

Insight intends to build an extra 39 units by achieving LEED Gold certification for the building. The developer proposes powering the building almost exclusively with electricity, save for gas-powered kitchens within the grocery store, installing solar panels on the penthouses and dedicating 10% of parking spaces for electric vehicles.

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Updates to a 14-year-old plan guiding future development in Clarendon are entering the home stretch.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to authorize public hearings on the Clarendon Sector Plan update, which could culminate in a vote on whether to accept the updated plan on April 23. The county is also still seeking feedback on the updates.

Changes to the sector plan were prompted by a bevy of expected near-term redevelopments on the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

The update did not revisit any of the 2006 plan’s overarching goals, which envision Clarendon as an “urban village” with “accessible and connected spaces, and a rich mix of uses” that build on the area’s historical commercial focus, according to the county.

Instead, the updates focused on whether the 14-year-old plan’s recommendations for specific sites needed to be updated as new proposals come in. It provides guidance on land use, building heights and forms, and transportation, and explores how the county can redevelop a parcel it owns with some combination of a new fire station, open space and affordable housing.

Members of nearby civic associations, the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission are urging the county to prioritize different elements on the publicly-owned site, located at 10th Street N., between N. Hudson and Irving streets.

The lot is currently is home to three aging county buildings: Fire Station 4 (3121 10th St. N), the Fire Prevention Office (1020 N. Hudson St.) and Clarendon House, which has been vacant since the county moved the mental health rehab program run by the Department of Human Services to Sequoia Plaza (2120 Washington Blvd) in 2015.

Both Fire Station 4 and the Fire Prevention Office — home to the offices of the Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief — have reached the end of their useful life, the plan says. The Fire Prevention Office building will be relocated to county offices at 2020 14th Street N. in Courthouse while Fire Station 4 could be rebuilt on the same property or elsewhere.

Fire Station 4 and the Fire Prevention Office (via Google Maps)

The Planning Commission favors using the land for a blend of government and community facilities, such as a rooftop public space above a proposed fire station.

Ashton Heights Civic Association President Scott Sklar writes in a letter to the county that neighbors envision “a significant, unique playground for children from the new residential buildings, along with some basketball, racquet or pickleball courts in the space adjacent to the fire station, as it would be centrally located to serve Clarendon and nearby residents.”

Lastly, the Housing Commission would like to see affordable housing co-located at the site, as the sector plan area has only 82 committed affordable housing units — the lowest number in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, says Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey said in a letter to the county.

“The Commission stated the priority should not be to provide luxurious amenities to those who live in single-family detached homes, but rather to provide homes to those who cannot afford them,” Berkey said. “Anything other than a structure which utilizes the full zoned height maximum would be a missed opportunity for the County-owned land.”

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The local NAACP is calling on the Arlington County Board to do more to encourage affordable homeownership opportunities for residents of color.

Although segregation officially ended last century, the Arlington branch of the NAACP says non-white residents are still effectively excluded from some neighborhoods due to county zoning codes, compounded by rising housing costs.

“The widespread single-family zoning scheme that prevents the construction of new housing in affluent, mostly white neighborhoods also worsens racial segregation by confining the construction of new affordable housing units to the Columbia Pike corridor and other parts of Arlington with large non-white populations,” the NAACP wrote in a letter to the county.

“People of color wishing to live in Arlington deserve meaningful opportunities to choose from a wide variety of housing types, in many parts of the county, at a reasonable cost,” the letter continues.

The NAACP says the county needs to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reform the county’s zoning laws and housing policies. It suggests reforms that go beyond those being considered in the Missing Middle Housing Study.

“We support the County’s many studies and other initiatives to promote affordable housing,” it concludes. “The best way to ensure the success of these initiatives is for the County Board and County Manager to show decisive leadership now and commit to supporting comprehensive zoning reform.”

Through Missing Middle, the county is considering whether and what kind of low-density multifamily housing could fit into single-family home neighborhoods. The county says allowing more housing types in these neighborhoods can reverse the lingering impacts of yesteryear’s racist zoning policies.

“The Missing Middle Housing Study has documented the role that Arlington’s land use and zoning policies have played in contributing to racial disparities in housing and access to opportunity,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “Conducting the Missing Middle Housing Study is one of many deliberate choices the County is making to address the mistakes of the past and pave a new path for Arlington’s future.”

While supportive of the study, the NAACP suggests solutions beyond its parameters.

It recommends every redevelopment be assessed for whether it would perpetuate historical exclusion or displace the existing community. If so, developers would have to use a “displacement prevention and mitigation toolkit” to reverse those impacts.

This toolkit could include:

  • property tax deferrals for lower-income homeowners
  • funding for Community Land Trust acquisitions
  • preferences for first-generation homebuyers
  • stabilization funds for residents at risk of displacement

The toolkit would “address the unique needs of and the displacement risk experienced by the community in and around site-plan and by-right developments while also helping to address patterns of historical exclusion experienced by members of protected classes,” the letter says.

These and other tools should also receive county and state funding, like a quick-strike land acquisition account, which would be used to quickly purchase properties for affordable housing development, and targeted homeownership assistance programs, the NAACP says.

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Morning Notes

Blossoms in bloom along Long Bridge Park in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Giant Spiders May Drop In — “An invasive species of spider the size of a child’s hand is expected to ‘colonize’ the entire East Coast this spring by parachuting down from the sky, researchers at the University of Georgia announced last week… Andy Davis, author of the study and a researcher at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, tells Axios that it isn’t certain how far north the spiders will travel, but they may make it as far north as D.C. or even Delaware.” [Axios, Fox 5, NPR]

Anti-Growth Group Decries Route 29 Planning — “On March 6, ASF wrote to the Arlington County Board expressing concerns that significant new land use and zoning plans will cause seismic shifts for the communities now lining Langston Blvd. We believe the process — which will soon produce a new Preliminary Concept Plan that likely will be fast-tracked like other county planning processes — will neglect or defer costs of critically-needed new infrastructure, will displace those earning 60% or less than the Area Median Income, and will make it difficult for local entrepreneurs to stay in business.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Polish Pike Pierogi Purveyor Praised — “‘Oh my god, it smells so good it’s driving me crazy!’ my husband reported after picking up a pierogi order from chef Ewa Fraszczyk, who shares kitchen space with La Cocina VA, selling her pan-fried Polish dumplings from the nonprofit’s Columbia Pike café every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Arlington chef’s pierogi, all delicate and delicious, come six to an order ($10-$12) in four varieties.” [Arlington Magazine]

Apartment Child Care Bill Advances — “House members voted unanimously on March 8 in support of a measure by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-Fairfax-Loudoun) to amend the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and permit child-care facilities in apartment units. That followed earlier, also unanimous, support in the state Senate.” [Sun Gazette]

Teen Stabbed in Va. Square Area — “At approximately 6:28 p.m. on March 8, police were dispatched to the report of a fight involving a group of approximately 6 – 10 juveniles. Upon arrival, the juveniles were no longer on scene and officers canvassed the area and located evidence of an injury in the 500 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 7:14 p.m., the juvenile male victim arrived at Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of stab wounds suffered during the fight. The victim’s injuries are considered serious but non-life threatening.” [ACPD]

Bus Driver Nearly Causes Wreck on I-395 — From public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Watch: A ‘professional’ driver does no better trying to quickly get across 4 lanes of interstate highway. This one almost takes out a car–twice!! Must have been a fun bus ride.” [Twitter]

Takeout for a Cause at Four Courts — From Ireland’s Four Courts: “Stop in or order takeout on Thursday for dinner. We are donating 20 percent of our food sales to @PathForwardVA help #endhomelessness in Arlington.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 52 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:28 am and sunset at 6:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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