County Board member Takis Karantonis says if the county has the “political will,” a sufficient amount of affordable and “missing middle” housing can get built.
Karantonis appeared on Friday’s “Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on public radio station WAMU. In addition to housing, the discussion touched on a new redistricting lawsuit, the Washington Commanders’ increasingly unlikely move to Virginia, and the bear that was roaming Arlington last week.
The trio spent a majority of time talking about the newest draft proposal of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study, which calls for amending the zoning ordinance to allow housing types that are denser (like duplexes, townhomes, etc.) but not larger than single family homes. The proposal was released last month and has, since, picked up several notable endorsements.
After what promises to be a contentious community engagement process, the County Board is expected to vote on whether to amend the zoning ordinance this fall.
On the radio program, Karantonis described his and the Board’s efforts “to lift barriers” that might better allow young families, middle class households, and seniors to afford buying a home in Arlington County. As the study proposes, that could mean building duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and other smaller-scale multi-family dwellings on lots that were previously zoned for only a single family house.
“More than 70 percent of Arlington are single households [or] detached family homes. And it’s absolutely not available [for more households],” he said. “It’s outlawed to be able to have more households in these buildings.”
While Karantonis continued to tout the potential plan, both Nnamdi and frequent program guest Tom Sherwood pushed back a bit.
Sherwood, a long-time local reporter and political analyst, noted that, since such a large portion of Arlington’s residential property is made up of single family homes, this plan may not have as broad support as the County Board may hope.
Additionally Sherwood played the role of devil’s advocate by asking if “economic forces” are so strong that no matter what local government enacts in terms of housing policies, it won’t be enough.
“That’s either a very pessimistic or very cynical take. I think that governance matters and we can deliver a lot,” Karantonis said in response. “It’s a very difficult thing but we can do it. The question is whether we have the political will and whether we have the anchorage in our community to honor these priorities.”
Nnamdi asked for the Board member’s thoughts on the criticism that this change in zoning won’t lead to more broadly affordable housing, as “missing middle” housing is likely to be priced significantly higher than levels typically seen for subsidized affordable housing in the county. Karantonis responded that dealing with the zoning ordinance question doesn’t mean the Board’s work is done on this matter.
“Once we find a way that is tailored to Arlington and works for the housing environment, I can imagine that there will be a very long to-do list that would be looking at housing affordability in these districts, as well,” he said.
Grand Opening for Big Rosslyn Development — “Real estate developer Penzance welcomed Arlington County officials to the grand opening of The Highlands, a mixed-use project in Rosslyn at the top of the hill on Wilson Boulevard. The Highlands, a 1.2-million-square-foot development, consists of three high-rise residences — named Pierce, Aubrey and Evo — with views of the D.C. area and several amenities. ‘We’re proud to be here today welcoming these 890 new residences, exciting retailers, Fire Station 10 and the beautiful Rosslyn Highlands Park.'” [Patch]
Reward Boosted in Ballston Murder Case — “The Ratigan family is announcing an increase in their reward fund from $25,000 to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for Scott Ratigan’s homicide on January 17, 2020. Detectives continue to follow-up on any and all investigative leads in this case and remind the public that any information, regardless of how small it may seem, could be the tip that leads to justice on behalf of Scott and the Ratigan family.” [ACPD]
Retired Police K-9 Dies — “With great sadness, ACPD announces the passing of retired K9 Drago, a 14 year-old old German Shepard, Belgian Malinois mix. He loyally served Arlington from 2008 to 2019 as a patrol and narcotics detection K9. We kindly ask that you keep him and his handler in your thoughts.” [Twitter]
APS Getting Ready for Kid Vax Approval — “APS continues to work with the County on plans for rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to students ages 5-11 once it is approved, which we anticipate very soon. Once approved, we will inform the community about the availability of doses and how to schedule appointments. Arlington County Public Health anticipates holding clinics and scheduling vaccinations by appointment, hopefully by mid-November. We will keep families informed as new information is received.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Man Seen Stealing GOP Signs — “We’ve received reports of stolen yard signs, and — while we appreciate your updates — almost none of those are actionable because the tipsters don’t provide us any physical/visual evidence. But kudos to one resourceful sleuth, who provided us with these fairly clear photos of a guy taking down Youngkin signs in Arlington last night.” [Arlington GOP, Twitter]
In Defense of Audrey’s Age Answer — “Apparently what happened is that the paper wanted candidates to fill out online questionnaires, and the computerized program didn’t allow respondents to skip the ‘age’ question. So Clement wrote in a younger figure as something of a protest in requiring candidates to answer a question she feels is inappropriate. From this, the Post tried to make a big deal. Turns out the Posties, as is often the case, missed the context. Clement wasn’t lying to them, as they contend. She was f*cking with them. A big difference.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Artist Performs on NPR — From National Public Radio: “The Tiny Desk is back… sort of. The first concert recorded at Bob Boilen’s desk since March 2020 is 2021 Tiny Desk Contest winner Neffy!” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 65, getting progressively cloudier throughout the day. Sunrise at 7:31 a.m. and sunset at 6:11 p.m. Tomorrow (Friday) will be rainy and windy, with storms and flooding possible. Expect a high near 63.
Shots Fired in Green Valley — “ACPD is investigating a shots fired incident in the 3200 block of 24th Street S. which occurred at approximately 8:14 p.m. No victims related to this incident have been located.” [ACPD, Twitter]
New Taco Ghost Kitchen — “Philadelphia-based Iron Chef alum Jose Garces is returning to DC with a delivery-only taco ghost kitchen, Buena Onda. The Baja-inspired taqueria, an offshoot of his brick-and-mortar Philly shop, will start running grilled fish tacos, guac, and “buena bowls” on Friday, September 24 from an Arlington kitchen.” [Washingtonian]
Another ACPD Departure — Adrienne Quigley, Arlington’s only female deputy police chief, retired from ACPD on Friday. Citing multiple sources, ARLnow previously reported that Quigley is expected to take a job at Amazon HQ2, amid an “exodus” from the department. [Twitter]
No APS Blue Ribbon Schools This Year — “One Fairfax County school was named among seven Virginia public schools honored as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education, but the rest of Northern Virginia’s inner suburbs found themselves shut out… No Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church or Loudoun public schools made the grade this year, although one Prince William County public school – Mary G. Porter Traditional – was honored.” [Sun Gazette]
Officers Visit PEP Program — From ACPD: “Corporal Smithgall and Recruit Officer Divincenzo spoke with PEP Program students at the Arlington Career Center today and also had the opportunity to compete in a push-up challenge! PEP is a community based program for supported work experience, supported travel training, and independent living training.” [Facebook]
Bayou Bakery Owner Featured on CNBC — David Guas, owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse, was featured on CNBC Thursday night for his Community Spoon initiative, which provides meals to Afghan refugees. Guas is a Cuban-American, whose father fled Cuba in the 1960s. This isn’t the first time local business owner has provided food to those in need; he previously provided meals to families in need during the pandemic and supplied meals to National Guard personnel at the Capitol earlier this year. [CNBC]
De Ferranti on WAMU’s Politics Hour – Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti was on “The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi” on Friday. In the 16 minute conversation, de Ferranti talked about the county’s new logo, schools, the shrinking police force, the newly-adapted bag tax, housing, and his hunger task force. He also fielded questions about the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, saying it was still premature to discuss, and the tightening Virginia governor’s race. The Board chair also revealed that he voted for Terry McAuliffe in the Democratic primary. [WAMU]
Neffy, née Mecca Russell, tells ARLnow she drew on her homecoming experience during the pandemic, after living in New York City for about five years.
“Returning had me get in touch with my roots for the first time in half a decade,” she said. “It was almost like, ‘Will this environment accept me in the same that it did when I was younger, after being away for so long?'”
She found that Green Valley not only accepted her, but proved to be a well of inspiration to draw from. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s ballad about the meaning of home was chosen from thousands of entries to NPR’s contest, which selects an emerging artist to perform at the vaunted “tiny desk,” joining the likes of some very notable musicians, including Mac Miller, Wu Tang Clan, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Lizzo.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was in so much shock and disbelief,” says Neffy about how she felt after hearing she had won. “I’m still kind of in shock and disbelief, to be quite honest.”
She says she has always been musical, known to sing around the house as a child. Neffy wrote her first song at 13 years old and, shortly after, picked up a guitar.
When she got older, went to college and decided to pursue writing and performing professionally, she realized her craft required a lot of sacrifice — and it led to some self-doubt.
But winning the Tiny Desk contest in 2021, after entering submissions in 2018 and 2020, validated her choice to pursue her craft.
“This experience has given me the chance to really feel full and express myself completely as an artist,” Neffy says. “And that alone has taken so much weight off my shoulders because that means I’m allowed to be an artist.”
She said writing and performing “Wait Up” allowed for that self-reflection and gave her an outlet for some of these feelings.
“I wrote this song for myself… because it was almost like a very cathartic therapeutic experience for me to write the song,” she says. “It was something that my soul definitely needed.”
To get herself in the right place, she says she spent a lot of time in her backyard as well as in and around Arlington’s green spaces, including gardens, nature centers and trails.
“Those [places] really are the foundation of who I am,” Neffy says. “[The song] was also a weaving of my mother’s love, my family’s love and us being outside in our backyard and having memories attached to all of those spaces.”
Right now, she’s primarily performing virtually due to the pandemic but plans on taking her talent to venues in the D.C. area soon.
While she’s currently residing in Green Valley, Neffy expects that she will soon head off on a new adventure. Writing “Wait Up” taught her that leaving will be okay, and that her home will always be here in Arlington no matter where her ambition leads her.
“By the time the song gets to the bridge, I am certain that, yes, home will always be there, whether it’s a physical manifestation or a spiritual manifestation that lives inside of me,” she says. “No matter where I go in the world, whether it’s Japan or who knows where, home is going to always live inside of me no matter what.”
And Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey, who sits on the regional board, was one of the leaders who flipped his vote from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes.’
Dorsey appeared on WAMU’s The Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi on Friday to talk about why he flipped his vote. Dorsey also explained the powers and limitations of the newly created Community Oversight Board, which provides oversight over the conduct of officers in the Arlington County Police Department.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature project would add two high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction to part of its Beltway and lower I-270. The toll system would connect with Northern Virginia’s toll lanes on I-495 and 395.
Supporters say the project will relieve intense bottleneck, but in June, Dorsey said it was “not ready for prime time,” according to the show. In the interim month, the project was revised and Hogan’s team reportedly spent significant time lobbying those who voted ‘no.’ The board voted 28-10 in favor of the project.
Dorsey said his vote hinged on funding for public transit, as lower congestion could encourage more single-occupancy vehicle traffic. He denied being contacted by Hogan’s office, but said he was contacted by “targeted campaigns.”
“What was missing was a commitment to provide the funding to make sure locally-developed transit solutions could be developed, and could be constructed and operated in the long term,” he said.
The project now includes state funding to design bus lanes for the expanded highway, in addition to $300 million in private funding for transit projects. Dorsey said the revised project also outlines timelines and efforts for transit projects, he said.
“There was significant progress — at least enough progress for me to move it along in the regional planning process,” Dorsey said.
The Maryland Board of Public Works is set to vote on the project later this summer, according to the show.
Dorsey also clarified the roles of the Community Oversight Board, which has investigative and subpoena power. The board will have an independent policing auditor who can conduct an investigation alongside one being conducted internally by ACPD.
“If for some reason in that concurrent [model], which we think is artfully designed, records are withheld, it has ability to get them via subpoena,” he said. “We hope it’s rarely used, as that means the concurrent model not working.”
(The Arlington branch of the NAACP has criticized the County Board for not granting the oversight board the full powers recently granted by the state legislature.)
Since County Manager Mark Schwartz hires staff, including police officers, a Community Oversight Board with county staff would not be effectively independent, Dorsey said. The solution was to create an independent policing auditor who is accountable to the oversight board and who ensures investigations take place.
The Board voted against a provision setting aside three seats on the oversight board for people of color or people from marginalized groups.
“This is not about saying there shouldn’t be three people of color on the board, but that we shouldn’t send a signal that three is somehow an acceptable minimum,” Dorsey said. “Most [members] should be people of color, from my perspective.”
Dorsey said he does not deny that ACPD has had occasional issues worthy of scrutiny, but “overall, we’ve had a professional and effective and trustworthy police department.”
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) A public-records request sheds light on how the Arlington County Police Department justified a change to what the public can hear via police radio channels.
The Freedom of Information Act inquiry by ARLnow uncovered documents about the department’s March change to encrypt more radio chatter. The documents cited safety and security concerns, including some related to last summer’s police reform protests and the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Whereas the public — including news outlets like ARLnow and local TV stations — used to be able to hear more details about a police incident in progress in Arlington, now in most circumstances only the initial dispatch and basic information from the scene can be heard.
“Once a call for service is stabilized, it may be moved to an encrypted channel to protect the personal and confidential information of members of the public interacting with law enforcement and for tactical, operational and investigatory security reasons,” Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said in an email.
Authorities drafted a policy and created a memo in February after a workgroup focused on police radio traffic hashed out details and the department’s now-permanent police chief, Charles “Andy” Penn, wrote that he expected “questions/complaints” about the encryption.
The Feb. 23 police memo gives information about why the department encrypted an administrative channel and details that other channels were encrypted, too, including special ops for presidential and dignitary escorts and other special events, a civil disturbance unit’s operational channel, a frequently-used “talk around” channel for officers on the scenes of incident to communicate with one another, and an outreach zone channel involving school resource officers.
Authorities shared their reasoning in wanting to encrypt more channels, noting police in Illinois and Texas heard on their radios the hip-hop group N.W.A.’s anti-police song — apparently transmitted by someone with access to a radio capable of broadcasting on police channels — amid nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
“During the summer of 2020, protests and civil unrest across the country highlighted the growing threat to public safety communications and exposed its loopholes,” one email said. “Factions in Dallas and Chicago targeted these vulnerabilities by playing music over unencrypted radio channels, preventing legitimate use. This sort of tactic threatens both public safety personnel, who rely on the radio to communicate with each other, and the general public, who are in potential danger during an incident.”
An Arlington County document also stated that the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol rioting also involved bad actors trying to gain access to police radio systems to cause disruptions. Additional details were not given in emails obtained by ARLnow, some of which were redacted.
“We also took into consideration the events of January 6 as we witnessed bad actors actively trying to gain access to radio systems to cause disruptions,” one email said.
When asked about the alleged Jan. 6 police radio incident, Savage said Wednesday in an email that they weren’t aware of this happening on ACPD’s own channels. In D.C., Metropolitan Police Department also noted they didn’t observe this.
But ACPD’s emails did cite unspecified incidents in which individuals used police transmissions to create disruptions.
“We have experienced numerous occasions where individuals created problems for first responders by having had access to information conveyed over unencrypted channels,” the department said in drafting its policy. “This includes but is not limited to people coming to scenes and disrupting or causing delays in the handling of the call.”
Without the added encryption, authorities say criminals could have advanced warning of police actions, citizens could arrive at a scene before emergency responders, and law enforcement tactics and movements could be compromised.
Savage said all dispatched calls for service, including emergencies such as an armed robbery or school shooting, are broadcast over the primary radio channel, which is not encrypted and available for monitoring by the media or interested members of the public, using either commercially-available scanner radios, online services or smartphone apps.
Savage noted the department shares information about some police incidents through daily reports, an online crime map, Arlington’s Open Data Portal, news releases and Arlington Alert for emergency notifications in the event of public safety threats and traffic disruptions.
King moved to Arlington from Miami shortly after his Larry King Show picked up national syndication from the Arlington-based Mutual Broadcasting System in 1978.
King’s show was produced in the Mutual Broadcasting studio at the top floor of the office building at 251 18th Street S., next to the Crystal City Metro station. Back then, the building’s street address was known as 1755 South Jefferson Davis Highway, the Crystal City Underground shopping plaza had recently opened, and the neighborhood was only beginning to emerge as a major commercial center.
“Mutual radio moved to Crystal City when no one was there and nothing was there — there were four buildings and the Crystal underground,” recalls Tammy Haddad, King’s radio producer in the early 1980s and later the founding Executive Producer of his CNN show.
It was from that studio that the late-night Larry King Show was broadcast across the country until it went off the air in 1994. Initially, it aired from midnight to 5:30 a.m., though the hours shifted over the years. The radio show featured an extended interview followed by live listener call-ins, and eventually aired on more than 500 radio stations nationwide.
The quirky program was a hit: King’s following grew so quickly — with millions of listeners staying up into the wee hours — that the open call-in portion of the show would crash the circuits of the entire 703 area code, at least according to King.
When Larry King Live launched in primetime on CNN in 1985, King would drive from the CNN studios in D.C. to Crystal City to host the radio show. Famous for his work ethic, King kept that grueling schedule up for years.
While working out of Crystal City, King lived in the Rosslyn area. For a couple of years he lived in The Virginian apartment building, before moving to the nearby Prospect House condo building, famous for its monumental view of D.C. and the Iwo Jima memorial.
King later briefly moved to McLean before decamping for Los Angeles, according to Patrick Piper, who produced King’s radio show after Haddad. (An Associated Press article from 1991 noted that King was arguing to have one of his divorces heard in Arlington “where he lives and works,” instead of Philadelphia where his estranged wife still maintained a residence.)
Stories from King’s radio days abound.
For one, King was cast as himself in the 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters.
“The people filming the movie Ghostbusters called and asked me to play myself in the movie,” he wrote in his autobiography. “They shot me, cigarette in hand, behind the mike.”
While the setting depicted in the film was definitely the Crystal City studio, Piper wasn’t sure whether it was actually shot in Arlington or on a soundstage. It did look like one of the secondary studios in the office, he said.
Getting to the studio late at night was not easy for the in-studio guests, Haddad remembers.
“The guests used to have to enter the Crystal underground entrance, which was unmarked, it never said Larry King radio show, it never said Mutual radio… and then they’d have to go to the building and [get] let up,” she said. “So you have to really want to be a guest on Larry King to get there.”
Many celebrities arrived via humble Arlington taxis
“We used to send the guests on Red Top Cabs,” Haddad said. “So we pick up Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, you know, all these guys.”
One regular on-air guest was then-Congressman Al Gore, who lived five minutes away in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and would drive himself over to the studio late at night.
“Al Gore and Larry had a special relationship,” Haddad said.
Crystal City might not have been as centrally located as downtown D.C., but King wrote that it helped him stay much more plugged in to national news and media than staying in Miami.
Thanksgiving is two weeks away. Hanukkah is four weeks away. Christmas is six weeks away.
The holiday season is upon us, which may be why today local radio station 97.1 WASH-FM is making its annual switch to all Christmas music, starting at 5 p.m.
That’s three days sooner than the station’s switch two years ago, which perhaps could be cited as an example of Christmas creep. Yesterday the anchors of the Fox 5 morning show debated the merits of Christmas music in mid-November.
We posed a similar poll question in 2018, but perhaps the intervening two years — and the pandemic — has resulted in a shift in attitudes, so today we’re asking: is today too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Fall Officially Starts Today — “While many of us think of the first day of fall as a full calendar day, the equinox itself is a rather fleeting astronomical event. It happens at a precise moment when the sun’s direct rays are straight over Earth’s equator. This year’s equinox is at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Sept. 22.” [Capital Weather Gang]
JBG Acquires Local 5G Radio Spectrum — “JBG Smith Properties has paid $25.3 million for licenses to use small parts of a new class of wireless spectrum to set up a 5G internet network in National Landing, home to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters and Virginia Tech’s innovation campus.” [Washington Business Journal, Press Release]
County Board Challenger Amps Up Rhetoric — “Is Arlington’s political ruling elite a bunch of preening political poseurs unwilling to do the heavy lifting of implementing a truly progressive agenda for the community? That somewhat uncharitable (and decidedly paraphrased here) assessment comes from Audrey Clement, the perennial independent candidate for office who this year is facing off against County Board Chairman Libby Garvey.” [InsideNova]
County Launches New Data Portal — “Arlington County today unveiled a new Open Data Portal with several benefits and features that make it easier than ever to access and use Arlington data. The new portal, a centerpiece of the County’s Open Government Program, builds upon the first open data solution that launched in 2016.” [Arlington County]
Robbery Suspect Arrested in Pentagon City — “At approximately 3:36 p.m. on September 19, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly stole merchandise from a business without paying. Upon being confronted by loss prevention at the exit, the suspect allegedly brandished a knife, then fled on foot. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the Pentagon City Metro, still in possession of stolen merchandise.” [Arlington County]
Postal Service Keeping Rosslyn Office — “The United States Postal Service has tacked on an additional 3 years to its office lease at the International Place building in Arlington, Virginia, but will give up one of its floors in the process.” [CoStar]
People singing and playing music from their balconies has been something of a trend during the quarantine, and the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) wants to get it started in Arlington.
The Crystal City BID is starting Front Porch Fridays tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.
“We may not all have a front porch — we may not all even have a balcony — but what we do have is our community,” the Crystal City BID said on the event page. “Music has always brought people together and now is no different. We can still gather together to listen (virtually)!”
The BID is encouraging residents to open their windows or bring a radio to their porch or balcony, tune to the same station and crank up the volume.
This week, the station is Hot 99.5 at 4:20 p.m. Next week it’s DC 101.1 at noon.
“The station will change each week, but the party atmosphere stays the same,” the BID said. “And best of all — we want you to select the playlist! Visit our Facebook page each week Monday-Wednesday to vote on the songs you want to hear. Then listen in on Friday to see if your pick made the cut!”
The music will be commercial-free, courtesy of the BID.
“Small businesses throughout National Landing have adjusted their operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Just as they have supported us, we are focusing our efforts on ways to assist and enhance the long-term viability of these businesses,” Crystal City BID President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a statement. “We are pleased to contribute to Arlington County’s GRANT Program, which will enable countless small businesses to stay afloat, retain their staff and continue to serve the community.”
W-L Alumni File Suit Over Name Change — “A local alumni group is filing suit in federal court over their high school’s name change. The Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association claims the public did not get the chance to weigh-in on the school board’s decision to change its name to Washington-Liberty High.” [WTOP, DCist]
Wrong-Way Driver Nearly Strikes Officer — “As officers approached the vehicle to investigate, they observed a handgun with extended magazine in plain view. The suspect disobeyed the lawful commands of the officers, placed the vehicle into drive and allegedly accelerated towards an officer. The officer quickly moved out of the way to avoid being struck and the vehicle fled the scene at a high rate of speed.” [Arlington County]
NPR Highlights W-L Esports Team — NPR’s All Things Considered profiled the Washington-Liberty High School esports club this week. Colleges are offering millions in scholarships for esports players, the segment noted. The W-L team was also profiled by the Washington Post this fall. [NPR]
New Credit Union Open in Ballston — “Northwest Federal Credit Union recently celebrated the grand opening of a new branch in Ballston… its ninth public branch and first in Arlington County.” [Press Release]
ART Switch Successful Thus Far — “So far, so good, as the Arlington Transit (ART) system has a new contractor settling in. ‘The transition to ART’s new service provider – First Transit – has gone well during the initial weeks,’ County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Sun Gazette.” [InsideNova]
APS Launches Superintendent Survey — “The Arlington School Board is seeking community input through an online survey to help shape search criteria for the next superintendent. The survey is now open.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by GM and MB