Arlington, VA

Our reporting yesterday about plans to eliminate Route 1 overpasses in Crystal City and replace them with more urban-style, at-grade intersections was greeted with some skepticism.

Though the idea of making Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — more of an “urban boulevard” as Amazon moves in may seem appealing at first glance, the prospect of crossing the busy commuter route to get to and from the Crystal City Metro Station, as opposed to just walking underneath as one can currently on 18th Street, elicited some strong opinions.

There is, as some have suggested, another option, though it would be considerably more expensive: send Route 1 underground instead and build something pedestrian-oriented on top.

As seen in the illustration above, the original 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan actually presented a vision of Route 1 below grade, with roundabouts and some green space on top, at least at one intersection. It’s not an outdated concept — sending highways below ground and putting parks on top is a noted, recent urban design trend.

And it doesn’t need to be a park. Perhaps a pedestrian promenade surrounded by retail, restaurants and entertainment options — like the popular Third Street in Santa Monica — would work as the area grows. It could extend all the way from 12th Street to after 23rd Street, becoming a hub rather than a hindrance between the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods.

Undoubtedly, such a project would be expensive. And it would be disruptive in the short term. But would it be worth it, in your opinion?

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September will arrive this weekend, heralding the unofficial start of fall.

Yes, the actual season starts on¬†September 23, but with pools closing after Labor Day, football being played, Oktoberfest beer being poured and Pumpkin Spice Lattes being brewed — well, it’s basically fall.

(Note: In an affront to summer, Starbucks launched its pumpkin spice beverages today. More like pumpkin spite, right?)

With the weather feeling a bit fall-like to start the week, we thought we’d ask: what part of September are you most looking forward to?

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Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. He was also an Arlington resident for about 5 years.

The group Preservation Arlington points out that Glenn’s former home, a mid-century rambler near Williamsburg Middle School, is now for sale with the listing hinting — “the value is in the land,” it says — that it will likely be a tear-down. The property is¬†listed for $1,050,000.

During the lead-up to Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission, reporters camped outside the house on N. Harrison Street and Vice President Lyndon Johnson tried to visit, but was rebuffed by Mrs. Glenn. After, Glenn continued working in D.C., and at one point hosted at his home a cookout with special guest¬†Gherman Titov, the Russian who was the first human to orbit the earth, according to an Arlington Public Library history.

Glenn moved with his family to Texas in 1963, but his presence in Arlington is still felt. In 2012, the home’s owners told WUSA 9¬†that people still stopped by to gawk at the space hero’s former house. Glenn died in 2016 and was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

There’s likely little that could be done to legally prevent the house from being torn down at this point, if that’s what the eventual buyer wants to do. But if you could call the shots regardless, what would you do? Would you allow the owner of the property to do whatever they want with it, or prevent demolition on the basis of the house being historic?

Photo via Washington Fine Properties

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Despite only being a few miles apart as the crow flies, some residents of Arlington and D.C. are reticent to date people who live in the other jurisdiction.

For some, it’s the perceived differences among people who live on opposite banks of the Potomac. For others, it’s more practical concerns: the distance makes Metro travel slow and Uber travel pricey.

Yet, cross-Potomac romances do happen, as sometimes a river is not enough to deter two people who feel a real connection.

How do you feel it?

Photo via Flickr/John Sonderman

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Has the following happened to you?

You’re in a car, bus or on a bike, waiting at a traffic signal. The traffic light turns green, but a driver in front of you doesn’t budge. Other drivers honk, and you see the perpetrator hurriedly putting down a phone and mashing the gas pedal.

Anecdotally, it happened to one ARLnow employee every single day last week.

Needless to say, distracted driving (or distracted non-driving) is bad. It’s first and foremost incredibly dangerous to you and those around you. It is also infuriating, particularly at rush hour as those behind you are trying to get home and safely make it through short turn signals and green lights.

It sends a message: what’s taking place on my phone is more important than you, your time and your safety.

It is, however, not entirely illegal — Virginia’s existing texting-while-driving law applies to use of the phone in a¬†moving¬†vehicle, not when legally stopped.¬†This year Virginia’s legislature failed to pass a more expansive bill, though it did pass a bill prohibiting phone use while driving through highway work zones.

We’re wondering: have you experienced what’s described above? And do you think it’s getting better or getting worse?

File photo

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The Arlington County Board members voted last night to give themselves the ability to raise their pay by more than 50% next year.

Currently, Board members are paid $55,147 annually while the Board Chair is paid $60,662. Board members set a salary cap for their jobs every four years and last night voted for a significant hike.

The Board voted to “set the new cap at 100 percent of the Individual Area Median Income for the Greater Washington Region, or $89,851 for a Board Member and $95,734 for the Board Chair.” The new salary cap will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, but the Board has to take a separate vote to actually set their salaries.

More from a county press release:

“It is important to underscore that the Board’s action today sets a new salary cap, but does not increase Board salaries,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “The Board will not consider an increase in salaries in this calendar year, and whether we consider an increase in our salaries in 2020 will depend greatly on the overall outlook for the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget. “While it is awkward for the Board to have to vote to increase its own maximum salaries, state law leaves that responsibility to the Board,” Dorsey said. “We have not voted to increase the salary cap since 2011, and if we did not do so today, we would not be able to, under state law, for four more years. I support increasing the salary cap because I believe it will encourage more people, from varied economic backgrounds, to think about serving on this Board.”

Under state law, the Board may set a new maximum salary only once every four years, when 40 percent of the Board (two members) are standing for election. Dorsey and Board Member Katie Cristol are both up for re-election in November 2019. Any increase in salaries under the new cap would require separate Board action.

Board members, in their discussion of the proposed salary cap increase, noted that Board salaries are below the average salaries of jurisdictional comparators, and currently are at the level of 64.9 percent of Individual AMI for the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metro Area for a Board Member.

The Board heard from 223 people who took an online survey that asked respondents to indicate what salary level they thought was appropriate for members of the County Board and provide comments on the Board’s consideration of setting a new salary cap. The Board also received messages from more than three dozen residents on the proposed increase in the salary cap. The Chair sent letters to every civic association in the County, and community organizations, seeking their input through the online survey, and the County included a link to the survey in “Inside Arlington,” the County’s weekly e-newsletter, which has 135,000 subscribers.

The Board was considering setting the cap even higher — up to $135,312 for the chair, commensurate with the area median income for a family of four.

Arguments in favor of a pay raise for the County Board center around the belief that being a Board member for a prosperous county of 230,000 residents has become a full-time job, even if the position is technically considered part time. Being a County Board member, proponents argue, shouldn’t just be an option for the well heeled, and even a $90,000 salary isn’t high for leaders of a county with a $1.4 billion budget.

Arguments against the pay raise mostly assert that the Board has willfully made their jobs full time, when really it should function as more of a part-time, decision-making body supported by full-time county staff.

What do you think of the pay raise?

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Throughout her Democratic primary campaign for commonwealth’s attorney, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti pledged to stop the prosecution of simple marijuana possession cases.

Now that she has defeated incumbent Theo Stamos, Tafti is likely to have the opportunity to keep her campaign promise while in the prosecutor’s office.

More from the candidate’s website:

Between 2013 and 2018, the current Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office prosecuted over 3200 cases of simple marijuana possession. African-Americans are at least 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite the fact that studies show that different racial groups use marijuana at about the same rates. Marijuana should be the subject of civil regulation, but we should put our limited prosecutorial resources to better use focusing on serious crimes. Parisa will not prosecute simple possession of marijuana and support decriminalization and legalization,¬†with appropriate government regulation.

The Arlington Green Party supports that stance, penning an open letter just before primary day calling for Stamos to “stop prosecuting people caught with small amounts of marijuana in Arlington.”

“Arlington police and prosecutors should concentrate on crimes of violence and significant felonies, and not waste our public dollars jailing and prosecuting mostly youth caught with a marijuana cigarette,” the party said in an email.

What do you think?

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(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) Summer is great. Warm weather, cookouts, swimming pools — everything.

Well, not everything. There are some downsides to summer in Arlington, of course. It’s hot and swampy, mosquitos abound, frequent storms ruin your outdoor plans and, thanks to all those summer vacations, there’s less going on and less excitement.

Of the above, which is your least favorite part of summer here in town?

By popular demand, we’re adding the following poll about your favorite parts about summer in Arlington.

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Morning Notes

Kaine Event at Federico’sUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — “On Monday, May 13, U.S. Senator Tim¬†Kaine¬†will hold a roundtable in Arlington with fair housing advocates to discuss the work ahead to ensure equal access to housing for all Americans and address discrimination that LGBTQ Americans continue to face as they search for homes.” The event is now being held at 9 a.m. at Federico’s Ristorante Italiano (519 23rd¬†Street S.) in Crystal City, per an updated media advisory.

Amazon Hiring for Alexa Job in Arlington — Among other open job positions for Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, the company is now hiring a “Principal Product Manager” for its Alexa Experience team. [Amazon]

Puppy Recovering from Pike Crash — “Earlier this week Yoda ran into oncoming traffic after escaping his leash. I ran after him in attempt to save him, which resulted in both of us getting hit by a car. I am okay but Yoda was not so lucky. He has two major fractures in his back leg which lead him into surgery. He is resting but having a difficult time.” [GoFundMe]

Satisfaction with Metro Rebounds — “Metro’s reputation in the region has improved dramatically in the past two years and has almost reached the positive levels it enjoyed before a fatal smoke incident in 2015, according to a¬†Washington Post-Schar School poll…¬†A 68 percent majority of Washington-area residents rate Metrorail positively, up from 42 percent in 2017. In 2013, 71 percent had positive ratings of the subway system.” [Washington Post]

Post Endorses Tafti — The Washington Post has endorsed challenger¬†Parisa Dehghani-Tafti over incumbent Theo Stamos in the Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney primary. [Washington Post]

SoberRide Record for Cinco de Mayo — “Nearly 800 (792) persons in the Washington-metropolitan area used the free safe ride service, SoberRide, this Cinco de Mayo as opposed to possibly driving home drunk.” [WRAP]

Flickr pool photos by John Sonderman and GM and MB

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Last month Arlington County announced that it would stop recycling glass collected curbside.

The decision, which only applies to the county’s residential recycling pickup and not to offices and apartment buildings, was explained as a matter of economics — it’s more expensive for the county to recycle glass than it is to incinerate and dispose of it in a landfill.

While recycling glass does save energy, it doesn’t save much compared to the more efficient aluminum, steel, paper and cardboard recycling processes. The cost to recycle glass isn’t worth the marginal energy savings, some say.

While there’s logic in that argument, some locals don’t like the idea of sending a recyclable material to landfills.

“If a community gives up glass, it is admitting defeat in the face of readily available alternatives,” said the writer of a letter¬†published in the Sun Gazette.

The county does have an option for those who want their glass to be recycled, though it requires extra time and energy:

Alternatively, people can dump their glass at one of two designated drop-off locations — at¬†Quincy Park¬†(N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) or the¬†Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street)¬†— which carts¬†it to¬†Fairfax County for an¬†experiment¬†in paving roads with smashed up glass.

In a Facebook live chat yesterday,¬†Erik Grabowsky, chief of Arlington’s Solid Waste Bureau, said the public outreach process about change is still ongoing and Arlington will continue collecting glass in recycling bins through the end of July.

The county has not been recycling glass residents placed in blue carts, according to Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. Instead, it was being pulled at the material recovery facility and trashed.

“By putting glass in the black carts, it goes to Covanta where it’s melted (not incinerated) with trash and those results are landfilled, saving the whole transportation/sorting issues with the recycling process that does also have an economic aspect,” Golkin said, in an email.

What do you think about the county no longer recycling glass?

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This year, half of all calls to your mobile phone could be robocalls, according to predictions by call protection company First Orion. And ARLnow wants to know: have you noticed more robocalls to your phone?

There were 27.2 million robocalls placed to 703-area-code numbers in March, per call tracker YouMail, and 13.2 million calls to 571 numbers.

That’s up from¬†17.2 million robocalls to 703 numbers in March of last year, and¬†8.5 million calls to 571 numbers.

One Arlington resident¬†who’s definitely getting spammed with robocalls is FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Last Week Tonight”¬†host John Oliver set up a robocall system to call Pai every 90 minutes and leave a voicemail urging him to take action to reduce robocalls.

First Orion’s prediction¬†that robocalls will make up half of all cellphone calls was based on an analysis of 50 million calls which showed an increase from 3.7 percent of cellphone calls were robocalls in 2017 to 29.2 percent in 2018.

It may be a reason why one analysis of monthly calls by caller ID provider Hiya found people now only pick up their phone about half the time it rings.

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