Arlington County is giving residents a chance to respond to proposed changes to the towing code ahead of a County Board vote.
People can share their thoughts in a short online survey before the issue is slated to go before the Board during its regular meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The proposed changes are billed as getting the local code in line with the latest state law, protecting consumers and adjusting to rising costs in the towing industry, according to a staff presentation and additional materials.
Basic towing fee increases are being proposed, from $135 to $150, as well as an increase of the additional fees for night and/or weekend towing, from $25 to $30. That brings the maximum possible towing fee to $210, for a vehicle towed on a weekend night. The “drop fee” for discontinuing a tow in progress, however, will be lowered from $25 to $10.
The online survey has three questions. Among them:
- “Do you support reconciling the County ordinance with state code for purposes of improving enforcement and making the ordinance easier to understand?”
- “Do you support the consumer protection measures included in the proposal? These include enhancements to lighting, safety, accessibility and transparency.”
- “Do you support towing fee increases given the provided financial justification?”
The survey gives the following justification for the fee increases:
In this provided justification, towing operators have indicated increased costs. Staff have included supported materials from towers and Consumer Price Index data has indicated an inflationary increase in our area. Given these economic factors and regulatory requirements that towers have to be within a 3.25 mile radius of Arlington to support private businesses, do you support raising the tow fees to the maximum fees as regulated by state?
These proposed changes come after the county determined, among other things, that some towing and pricing practices are unfair and predatory, signage about towing is inadequate, and people do not have many ways to fight back when their cars are improperly towed and stored, according to a staff report.
“The County Board has found that some members of the public and their property have been placed at risk in circumstances where their vehicles have been towed from private property without their consent and placed in storage,” the report said.
Included in the code would be an updated definition of “immobilization” to mean anything “that does not damage the vehicle,” including using barnacles.
The recommendations were made by county staff with the Trespass Towing Advisory Board.
VDOT and Arlington County are studying ways to improve the safety, accessibility and experience along Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Street. The study responds to greater demand for various transportation methods as construction of Amazon’s HQ2 progresses.
“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” said the VDOT study page.
Participants in the online meeting, scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., will hear a review of existing conditions on Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — and learn about responses to a public survey that was open during October and November. They can also ask questions and give input.
The public is invited to provide comments during the meeting or through Monday, Dec. 28.
After the meeting, the public will hear and have the chance to provide feedback on draft recommendations in spring 2021. Officials expect the final study to be done next summer.
“At this time, no construction funding has been allocated, so the study will not set design or construction dates,” the VDOT website said.
The department is not the only group thinking of ways to improve the highway. In October, the National Landing BID released “Reimagining Route 1,” a report that transformed the car-centric highway into a safer boulevard lined with trees, retail and restaurants.
“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”
VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.
Those interested in joining the virtual meeting can register online or participate in listen-only mode by calling 877-309-2071 (access code 205-472-841).
The study team will make a short presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. and answer questions for about an hour afterward, the website said. A recording and meeting materials will be available online following the meeting.
Big Jump in Local Home Sales — “The red-hot summer real-estate market that evolved out of the springtime COVID crisis showed no signs of abating in September across Arlington. If anything, the market last month doubled down – literally. Home sales across the county totaled 274, up 44.2 percent from the 190 transactions recorded in September 2019.” [InsideNova]
Dems Protest Outside Trump HQ — Democrats protested outside of Trump reelection HQ in Rosslyn yesterday morning, criticizing the president for not agreeing to a virtual debate with Joe Biden. They came with signs and a large “Baby Trump” balloon. [Twitter]
Photos: Outdoor Coworking Space in Rosslyn — “Like dining out and birthday parties, coworking is now an outdoor activity thanks to the pandemic. At least it is in Rosslyn. Today, the new O2 pop-up (short for Outdoor Office) opens in Gateway Park by the Key Bridge.” [Washingtonian]
Amazon Employees to Keep Teleworking — “Amazon.com Inc.’s corporate offices may not return to pre-pandemic staffing levels until the middle of next year, with some managers telling their teams that they can continue to work from home until summer 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]
Tonight: Town Hall with APS Superintendent — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Friday, October 16, from 5-6 p.m., to address the Return to School Plan. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Ballston Private School Tackles Racism — “The Sycamore School (TSS), an independent nonprofit school serving 5th-12th grades, has invested in a year-long contract with nationally regarded educator and trainer Dr. Deborah Stroman as part of their continuing commitment to address issues of systemic racism.” [Press Release]
ART Bus Ridership Down — “For the fiscal year ending June 30, the ART system – funded by the Arlington government but operated by a private contractor – reported an average daily bus boarding total of 8,224, down 12.8 percent from the 9,434 reported for the previous fiscal year.” [InsideNova]
ABC Stores Are Doing Just Fine — “From March to September, [liquor sales in Northern Virginia] were up almost 17 percent over the year before: an average of nearly $37 million per month. March remains the month with the highest dollar amount of liquor sales in NoVa, at $39.3 million. July wasn’t far behind, with $38.5 million.” [Washingtonian]
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]
County Launching Race Conversations — “Today, Arlington County launched a new effort to address racial equity and disparities in our community. Called Dialogues on Race and Equity (DRE), the effort is part of the County’s broader commitment to racial equity… DRE will include a series of virtual community conversations with individuals, nonprofit organizations, civic associations, faith organizations, and businesses.” [Arlington County]
Local Nurses Hold Food Drive — “Nurses at the Virginia [Hospital] Center are going above and beyond to give back to the local community… Nurses launched the ‘Together We Can’ campaign where they collected canned goods. All together, they collected 10,000 cans and donated them directly to the food assistance center.” [WJLA]
Virtual 5K for Local Nonprofits — “A coalition of three homeless-outreach organizations – Community Lodgings, Bridges to Independence and Homestretch – will be hosting their third annual 5K “Home Run for the Homeless” in a different format this year. Rather than running as a group on the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail this year, participants will be able to run where they choose anytime from Oct. 10 (which is designated World Homeless Day) to Oct. 31.” [InsideNova]
Penthouse Sold in New Rosslyn Tower — “The sales team for Pierce announced strong early sales for The Highlands‘ luxury condominium tower… Strong early interest in Pierce has resulted in over $18.7 million in sales by The Mayhood Company since launching sales in August, including the sale of one of two top-of-the-market penthouse residences.” [Press Release]
Theater Holding Virtual Halloween Event — “Synetic Theater will hold its annual ‘Vampire Ball’ in a ‘virtual’ setting this year, with participants enjoying the festivities ‘from the comfort of your own crypt.’ The event will be held on Friday, Oct. 30 from 8 to 10 p.m.” [InsideNova]
When it was founded, the Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19 Facebook group was an uplifting place where local residents could ask for help, share information, and connect with one another.
Now, as with just about any online forum of a certain size, the events of 2020 have darkened the skies over the formerly sunny space.
Granted, there are still plenty of heartwarming, helpful and innocuous posts. In fact, there are more posts than most people can keep track of — everything from school opening discussions to questions about car dealerships. But the darker side of online forums has nonetheless crept in.
“I think that there has been an increase in divisiveness,” conceded Kellen MacBeth, co-founder of the group, which now has more than 11,000 members. “It is likely driven by several factors — the increased size of the group and that the ‘coming together’ attitude that characterized March and much of April has been wearing off.”
“When the pandemic first hit, people were scared, searching for answers, and ready to help each other survive,” MacBeth continued. “Now that it’s become a somewhat ‘regular’ threat, people have settled back into routines less focused on getting through a crisis as a community and more so just trying to live life in this new normal. We also saw that as the size of the group increased, you inevitably get trolls and other people who join and don’t share the group’s values.”
The divisiveness isn’t just about the group’s size and the pandemic’s progression, though. It’s also about the many unknowns still surrounding COVID-19, leading to a cacophony of competing warnings and indignations, as well as the politicization of the virus. And it’s about those other big 2020 news stories: the Black Lives Matter movement and mass protests, and a heated presidential election.
Even though Arlington is a progressive stronghold, with social justice signs common even in the yards of the county’s more conservative neighborhoods, BLM-related posts in particular seem to frequently lead to online confrontation.
Last week Arlington Magazine published an essay by local resident Olamide Goke-Pariola, who recounted the vitriol she faced while “talking about racial justice and challenging my mostly white neighbors to think critically about their role in white supremacy” in the group.
“They consistently dismissed my lived experience,” she wrote. “One neighbor even told me my comments were ‘noise.'”
The “Arlington Neighbors” group is not alone in turning into a dumpster fire at times, however.
Things got so bad at the popular Fairlington Appreciation Society neighborhood Facebook group, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, that its moderators shut it down for good. Before it closed, the group hosted battle royales on posts about social justice, with online shouting matches that were a digital counterpart to the battle over signs on a bridge playing out in the physical world nearby.
Even the usually chipper Mothers of North Arlington email listserv started to see moms turning on one another. The group faced accusations that it was dismissive of calls for social justice during the George Floyd protests and that it deleted a Black woman’s Facebook post on the subject.
ARLnow has seen its own share of added divisiveness. A half dozen commenters have been permanently banned for a pattern of racist comments over the past couple of months. Others have been placed on comment timeouts for engaging in extended flame wars. And there has been an uptick in criticism of our articles, with commenters on the site and Facebook questioning our coronavirus reporting and savaging our reporting about multiple COVID-19 cases at a private swim club.
The design process for the revamped Metropolitan Park near Amazon’s future Pentagon City offices is nearing the finish line.
A final draft design for the park was presented last week, revealing a hybrid of the “Forest Walk” and “Social Gardens” concepts previously detailed by James Corner Field Operations, which designed New York City’s famous High Line. Amazon is funding the design work for the park, which is adjacent to its future HQ2.
The updated design is a “more social version” of the Forest Walk concept that was generally favored in the latest round of public feedback, designers said. It includes:
- Meandering paths
- A “hammock clearing” on the forest walk
- The possibility of public art along the paths
- An overlook
- A central green for gatherings and events
- A day care garden near HQ2
- A “meadow lounge”
- A play garden with playground equipment
- A “community table” for dining amid nature
- A cafe terrace
- A 4,000 square foot dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs
- An Amazon banana stand
The county and the designers are now gathering feedback on the synthesized design, before making some tweaks and creating a final design for consideration by the County Board in September.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The well-known design firm working to reimagine Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City has revealed some of its initial design concepts.
James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York City’s High Line, presented the designs in a virtual public meeting last week, alongside representatives from Amazon — which is footing the bill for the design work and park renovations — and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
The current park, nestled in the middle of a group of apartment building and Amazon’s future HQ2, is largely flat grassy spaces, alongside trees, roads, and sidewalks. Its primary users are the apartment residents and their dogs; Amazon is planning to use part of the park for construction staging.
With Amazon moving in in a few years, however, it’s set for some big upgrades.
“As Amazon has said from the outset we want our Arlington HQ to become a destination that will draw people in, meet the needs of the neighborhood and our employees, and help build a sense of community,” said Brooke Oberwetter, Head of Community Affairs for HQ2. “I’m excited about the design concepts that are being put forward for consideration… with your feedback and ideas we can make sure this amazing space is an asset for the entire neighborhood for years to come.”
There were two overall design themes presented: “social gardens” and “the forest walk.” Some of the potential park features include:
- A central lawn could host 500-1,000 people for events like movie nights
- A children’s garden near HQ2 daycare center
- A fitness garden with exercise opportunities
- A game lawn with lawn bowling, bocce and badminton
- A dog run for both large and small dogs
- A hammock garden
- A play garden
- A community garden and orchard table for outdoor dining among fruit trees
- A cafe terrace and culinary garden with outdoor dining and restaurants in front of one of the HQ2 buildings
- A main promenade, that’s more of a meandering path in the “forest” design
- Several pieces of public art, some of which might be along a shady and meandering art walk
- A large shade trellis that can be used for festivals, markets and a banana stand
A survey conducted as part of the design process found that the top five park uses requested by residents were “sit and lounge,” “enjoy nature,” “stroll and walk,” “attend events,” and “dine and drink.”
The designs call for the removal of on-street parking spaces and “redundant” sidewalks from the roads that run through the park, and the addition of new trees and vegetation. With that and an expansion of the park into part of the HQ2 property, the new Metropolitan Park would have more than 100,000 square feet of space, according to the presentation.
County May Get Million from CARES Act — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “is considering a plan to distribute $3 billion of CARES cash using a formula that considers in economic need, a way to send more money to places like Lee County or Petersburg and less money to places like Alexandria and Arlington.” [@MichaelLeePope/Twitter, WVTF]
Arlington Trail Usage Way Up — “Trail counts are up 50% above average, on the weekends. Try an alternative route. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded trails.” [@BikeArlington/Twitter]
ACPD: Man Threw Brick Through Car Window — “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on April 30, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving on Columbia Pike when the suspect allegedly threw a brick through the rear window of the vehicle, causing it to shatter. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]
Marymount Faculty Member Makes ‘Fashion Masks’ — “Marymount University faculty member William Allen, an award-winning fashion designer, is using his creative talents and those of his students to help boost the amount of crucial PPE available at the Arlington Free Clinic.” [Press Release]
Sen. Kaine Volunteering at AFAC Today — “On Monday, May 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where he will meet with staff, tour the center, and volunteer to distribute food. The center has seen increasing demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and currently distributes groceries to over 2,400 families each week in Arlington.”
TSA Workers Create Food Bank at DCA — “Transportation Security Administration employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have established a free food and toiletries pantry to assist employees in the airport community who have been laid off or seen their work hours and paychecks reduced due to the significant decrease in travelers as a result of the pandemic.” [Press Release]
Photo courtesy @EthanDevries_/Twitter
There are now 312 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, an increase of 32 since the day before.
The latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health also shows 4,509 reported cases, 772 hospitalizations, and 121 deaths statewide, as of Friday. Arlington’s neighbors Alexandria and Fairfax County are now reporting 174 and 777 cases respectively.
Arlington will be hosting a live town hall meeting at noon today (Friday) online and on local cable TV. More from the county:
On Friday, we’re hosting a live town hall to discuss Arlington’s response to COVID-19. You can ask questions on all aspects of this health and economic emergency by joining us on Facebook or by texting 571-356-9267. The town hall will also be live-streamed to YouTube, the County website and Arlington TV (Comcast 1085/Verizon 39).