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Crowd at Sunday’s anti-Missing Middle housing rally at Innovation Elementary (photo courtesy Esther Bowring)

Several hundred people gathered early Sunday afternoon at Innovation Elementary School for what was dubbed the “Reality Check Rally.”

As others were glued to their TVs for the last day of the NFL regular season and its playoff implications — or going about errands, children’s activities, or jobs — the attendees spent their afternoon hearing a dire picture being painted about the proposal to allow multifamily housing of up to 8 units per property in single-family home neighborhoods, also known as Missing Middle.

As outlined in a press release from organizers Arlingtonians for Upzoning Transparency and Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, plan critics are concerned that it will “accelerate gentrification, reducing Arlington’s diversity; displace moderate-and low-income households, including seniors, persons with disabilities and renters; raise property values and taxes; reduce tree canopy and greenspace; and further overload schools, infrastructure and services.”

Of course, not everyone agrees.

A handful of Missing Middle supporters also showed up at the event, according to Patch, including those representing the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Supporters have also showed up to pivotal County Board meetings, albeit not in the numbers seen at Sunday’s rally.

Meanwhile, in November’s County Board election, the two candidates supportive of Missing Middle to various degrees — incumbent Matt de Ferranti and independent Adam Theo — took about 71% of the vote to 28% for independent Audrey Clement, who based her campaign around her opposition to Missing Middle.

The Missing Middle debate in Arlington is a particularly pitched version of debates that often play out here and elsewhere across the country, particularly when it comes to proposals to build infrastructure, build new housing, or change the physical built environment in general.

It raises the question of just how local governments should handle such opposition.

Often, opponents of such projects will make the case that their numbers, their passion, and their arguments should be enough to put a stop to what they’re protesting, or at least to grant additional time for more studies and community input. (An online petition against Missing Middle in Arlington has more than 5,000 virtual signatures.)

On the other hand, those who are supportive of building — more housing, in particular — have been saying that there is a well-formed playbook for stopping things from being built and that elected officials should not be so quick to grant those with the loudest voices and largest crowds what they want. They argue that there is a mostly silent majority that’s okay with things being built —  a group that does not have the time, desire nor, in some cases, economic ability to wage a support campaign to counter the opposition.

It’s difficult to boil this very fundamental debate about the role of local government and community input — a county-specific form of which is known as the Arlington Way — into a concise poll. But today we’re going to try!

In general terms, how pivotal should community input be to county decision making, when there’s a large contingent that opposes a given proposal?

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The Missing Middle housing debate fueled a tense confrontation and a spat over campaign financing during the Arlington County Board meeting Saturday.

Leading up to the meeting, proponents and opponents rallied outside of county government headquarters in Courthouse. Advocacy group leaders spoke to attendees and NBC 4 over the clang of construction on a new apartment building across the street.

The County Board is gearing up to consider whether to amend the zoning code to allow for buildings with two to eight units on lots that are currently zoned only for single-family detached homes. The Planning Commission and County Board could consider amendments to the proposal over the next few months.

Proponents say the move would give homebuyers more choices in more neighborhoods in a broader range of prices, and help undo the lasting impacts of historically racist zoning policies. Opponents counter these changes will actually displace lower-income residents, won’t decrease home prices, will reduce Arlington’s tree canopy and strain its infrastructure and schools.

In the County Board room this weekend, a resident interrupted the conclusion of an anti-Missing Middle speech to hand each County Board member a rolled-up, printed-out copy of a petition opposing the changes, which had more than 4,460 signatures as of publication.

“No, no — sir, sir, sir — excuse me, please, please, please don’t approach the Board,” said a distressed and frustrated sounding Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Please, can you please go to our Clerk? Sir? Thank you.”

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol directs a resident distributing petitions to the County Clerk (courtesy of David Cheek)

Missing Middle advocate Charles Day then took the podium to say that the status quo — redevelopment of starter homes into larger, multi-million-dollar homes — increases competition for existing market-rate affordable housing, like the garden apartment on Columbia Pike he and his wife live in, thus displacing lower-income families.

“It’s not lost on us that because of lack of starter homes, couples like us are taking up an apartment that a lower-income family might need,” he said. “Unfortunately, most young people don’t have a lot of options… There’s no silver bullet to solve the housing crisis overnight but rents continue to rise and the starter home is becoming a thing of the past.”

After him, independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, speaking via Zoom, took a shot at the Sun Gazette’s endorsement of her opponent, incumbent Matt de Ferranti. She argued that de Ferranti supports Missing Middle because he’s taking money from construction workers.

“About $50,000 of de Ferranti’s large donor intake is from people and organizations outside the county, mostly outside the state, including $13,500 from construction trade unions destined to benefit from the Missing Middle building boom,” she said. “If the donations from those with no vested interest in the county were subtracted haul, his receipts would shrink to $19,000 and the election would be more competitive.”

According to Virginia Public Access Project, de Ferranti has received roughly $15,000 this year from unions representing construction workers, around the same amount as he received from a single, billionaire-funded education nonprofit.

De Ferranti said he refuses donation from developers and that donations from unions do not change his policy stances.

“I don’t take a dime from developers. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I learned that one donation that was submitted online had an association with a developer — and I returned it,” de Ferranti said in response. “I have no promises to any of the unions, I merely seek to fight for working people. Let’s have a debate on policy, let’s have a debate on equity, let’s do it civilly, please.”

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Morning Notes

The overlord of N. Longfellow St. in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Socialists Hold Abortion Rally — From the Northern Virginia Branch of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America last night: “Fight, fight, fight! Abortion is a human right! DSA, La Colectiva, PSL demonstrate for abortion rights in Courthouse, Arlington.” [Twitter, Twitter]

‘Missing Middle’ Too Late? — “The former president of the John M. Langston Civic Association supports Missing Middle housing policies, but contends Arlington leaders are about a quarter-century too late for them to have a tangible impact. Speaking at a Juneteenth program June 23 at Central Library, Wilma Jones said any changes to housing policies, to allow a diversity of housing types in single-family neighborhoods, will have only limited impacts in communities such as hers, which already have seen major gentrification.” [Sun Gazette]

Parent: Daughter Bullied for Not Wearing Mask — “Over the last year, our child has been repeatedly bullied by multiple children because of her speech impairment. What was a minor speech deficit 2 years ago is now a significant problem. And a recent incident that started with bullying over her speech escalated into a physical attack because she was not wearing a mask and false assumptions about her vaccination status.” [Arlington Parents for Education]

Derecho 10th AnniversaryUpdated at 9:50 a.m. — From the National Weather Service: “It’s been 10 years since the June 29th, 2012, derecho impacted the Mid-Atlantic region. Widespread damage was observed across nearly the entire area. This included observed wind gusts up to 80-85 mph.” [Twitter, ARLnow]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

An airliner leaving DCA is reflected in a building in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Gun Violence Rally Planned — “A National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally will be held Saturday in Arlington. The rally will be held by the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that supports stricter gun laws, at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Hope Garden near Courthouse Plaza in Arlington.” [Patch]

Animal Control Rescues Bald Eagle — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Our animal control officers were all very surprised this weekend when a call about a large bird behaving oddly turned out to be a fledgeling bald eagle! He is now with a licensed wildlife rehabber and when he’s feeling better we hope to release him back into the wild!” [Twitter]

Blood Drive this Weekend — “Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services to host an Arlington Community Blood Drive on Monday, June 6.” [Patch]

Pride Month Events at Library — Pride Month starts today and Arlington Public Library has a page with LGBTQIA+ book lists, stories and history discussions. The library is also hosting a series of Pride Month events. [Arlington Public Library]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 89 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:29 pm. [Weather.gov]

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High school students across Arlington staged walkouts Monday afternoon and rallied to demand measures to codify Roe v. Wade.

After a Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn the 1973 decision that protects abortion access leaked last week, youth-led student group Generation Ratify Virginia helped organize walkouts across the state. In Arlington, Washington-Liberty, Arlington Tech and Wakefield High students left their schools and rallied to discuss the implications if the ruling is overturned.

Wakefield organizer Anabelle Lombard said they will not be the “post-Roe generation” and will be vocal to fight for their future. About 300 students gathered on the school’s football field during the walkout, according to Generation Ratify Virginia.

“Today, Virginia students have made it clear that we are going to defend our access to abortion and preserve our rights to reproductive healthcare,” Lombard said in a statement. “We have made it clear that we need these rights supported by a strong legal backing of gender equality that enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in our constitution would provide.”

“We have made it clear that Gen-Z will not stand idly by as a few conservative judges strip away our right to choose — a right that the majority of Americans agree should be upheld,” she added.

About 100 students at each Washington-Liberty High School and Arlington Tech participated in walkouts, some wearing green to show support for abortion rights.

Washington-Liberty senior Valentina Lopez-Landeo said she organized the walkout at her school to unite and inform students because abortion rights isn’t something talked about in school.

“Roe v. Wade is not something that we ever thought would be overturned so once we got the news of that, I guess most of us, specifically seniors, wanted to rally up against all that,” she said. “We do believe that we are the new generation and we wish for change and we realized that we can ask for more change if we join together.”

Lopez-Landeo was particularly proud to see the number of freshmen and sophomores who attended the walkout.

“Hearing them voice their opinions on it was so inspiring because I felt like we were leaving them in good hands and… they were going to make sure that the school and students in school kept up with trying to search for change,” she said.

Felix Hedberg, Policy Director at Generation Ratify Virginia and junior at Richmond’s Open High School, said students want to have their voices heard.

“It’s time to listen to youth,” Hedberg said in a statement. “Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the [Equal Rights Amendment], shining the spotlight on Virginia in the movement for gender equality and reproductive justice. Generation Z is ready to capitalize on that attention to ensure [Gov. Glenn] Youngkin and Virginia Republicans won’t succeed in rewriting Virginia as a commonwealth against abortion access.”

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Morning Notes

Hawk withdrawing (Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr)

Towers Coming to Site in National Landing —  “Developers have closed on the purchase of a vacant site near Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington, a transaction that paves the way for a new two-building project there.” [Washington Business Journal]

Anti-Vaccine-Mandate Rally Growing — “The event, called ‘Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming,’ plans a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial… [A spokesperson] says the group has more than 36,000 signups; a permit application filed with the National Park Service… says it expects 20,000 people.” Organizers have been encouraging attendees to stay in Arlington. [Washingtonian]

Keep Uncollected Bins Out — “Curbside recycling/trash/organics collection resumed Monday, Jan. 10, following last week’s storms. Keep any carts left unemptied this week at the curb through Saturday, Jan. 15. The County’s contractor is making progress collecting about twice the regular tonnage but runs are slower, trucks fill faster and Covid has affected staffing.” [Arlington County]

MLK Mass This Weekend — “On Sunday, January 16, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, will celebrate a Mass in Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. The annual Mass honors the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader who was slain almost 54 years ago.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Shred and Recycling Material Drop-Off — Each Arlington resident can shred up to two boxes or bags of paper or unload a small truckload of inert materials for free at a regularly held recycling event this Saturday. [Arlington County]

Return of 7000 Series Delayed Again — “Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld said today he will not resume the placement of 7000-series trains into passenger service for about 90 days to allow Metro engineering and mechanical experts time to focus on root cause analysis and acquire technology to measure 7000-series wheelsets. During the 90-day period, Metro will accelerate efforts to restore 6000-series railcars to increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers.” [WMATA, Washington Post]

It’s Friday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 46. North wind 8 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 5:10 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. North wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. On Sunday, snow is likely after 1 p.m. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr

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The COVID-19 vaccine (via Arlington County/YouTube)

A group will be protesting vaccine mandates in D.C. later this month but staying in Arlington — due to forthcoming vaccine mandates in D.C.

Defeat the Mandates, D.C. is planning a rally in the District on Sunday, Jan. 23. The group describes the rally on the National Mall as a bipartisan event that will have a “wide range of featured guests” including “recording artists, prominent doctors, journalists, pro athletes, actors and premier thought leaders.” It will feature “a series of inspiring ‘TED talks’ and musical performances.”

“Stop the mass firings. Stop segregating by vaccination status. Stop calling Americans ‘unpatriotic’ for making a personal medical choice,” says the recently-created group’s website.

But the group encountered a problem in organizing the rally: in late December D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that proof of coronavirus vaccinations will be required to enter many District businesses, including restaurants, starting in mid-January.

That prompted a shift to Arlington.

“Due to the upcoming Vaccine Mandate put in place by the Mayor of DC, we have moved all of our hotel blocks to Arlington, VA,” the rally’s website says. “We wanted to supply hotel blocks near DC so that all of our guests, regardless of vaccination status are welcome. The new mandate goes into effect on 1/15/22 and requires proof of vaccination or negative covid test to enter all restaurants, bars, gyms and indoor meeting spaces.”

The website lists hotel packages at two hotels in the Crystal City area: the Renaissance Arlington Capital View and the Embassy Suites Crystal City.

So far the group has not released a list of speakers or a count of how many people are expected to attend, though it has attracted a fair amount of chatter on social media and forums like Reddit.

Of course, not everyone thinks a mass gathering of unvaccinated individuals during a Covid wave is a good idea.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said one Twitter user.

About 92% of Arlington’s adult population has received at least one vaccine done, a likely contributor to the low rate of Covid hospitalizations during the current record-breaking wave.

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Arlington County police in riot gear outside of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 (via YouTube)

The Arlington County Police Department has been asked to assist U.S. Capitol Police with security during a planned rally this weekend.

The “Justice for J6” rally, which being held in support of those charged after the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol by a large pro-Trump mob, is set to take place Saturday at noon on the west side of the Capitol grounds.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow Wednesday evening that the department has received a mutual aid request to provide additional security at the Capitol on Saturday.

“The Arlington County Police Department has received a request from the United States Capitol Police Department to provide assistance for planned events September 18, 2021, in Washington D.C.,” Savage said. “Arlington County Police will honor this request and provide officers to assist our regional law enforcement partners in maintaining peace and order in the event of a significant disturbance or unrest.”

“Inter-agency partnerships are an important tool in ensuring public safety during large scale events and our top priority remains ensuring the safety of residents, businesses and visitors of the region,” Savage added. She declined to say how many officers will be sent to the District, saying ACPD does not reveal information that is “tactical in nature.”

The National Guard has also been asked to be ready to send troops, if necessary, and a temporary fence was just erected around the Capitol complex to prevent a possible repeat of the January attack.

Arlington police in riot gear previously assisted at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department later presented its Ribbon of Valor to 65 Arlington cops and firefighters who responded to the District on that day.

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It’s not just the cicadas that are going to be making lots of noise this weekend. Thousands upon thousands of bikers are also expected to descend on the area for the successor to Rolling Thunder.

Rolling to Remember” is the new name for the annual Memorial Day weekend motorcycle rally in the nation’s capital. It is expected to draw some 150,000 attendees, riding some 100,000 motorcycles, organizers told WTOP.

Much like past Rolling Thunder events — which utilized the Crystal City Hilton as the rally’s official headquarters — Rolling to Remember is also expected to result in large, motorcycle-riding crowds in Arlington. Among the accommodations suggested by organizers are hotels in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Rosslyn.

One of the two Saturday gatherings expected to be “attended heavily by those in town for Rolling to Remember” is an “Observation of Memorial Day Weekend” at the Crystal City Sports Pub on 23rd Street S. Arlington’s tourism office, meanwhile, has a web page devoted to the “massive” event.

The Arlington County Police Department is preparing for crowds.

“A variable message board has been placed on S. Clark Street at 23rd [Street] and will be used in the event there is traffic congestion in the area,” police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “ACPD will monitor and provide traffic control, if needed.”

Most of the rally’s official events are taking place in D.C. The RFK Stadium parking lot is being used as a rallying point, after the Pentagon denied organizers a permit this year, citing the pandemic. Numerous street closures are planned in the District.

In its past Rolling Thunder iteration, the annual rally had supporters and detractors among the local populace. About 30% of those who answered an ARLnow poll in 2017 said noise from all the motorcycles bothered them. The roar of engines is particularly pronounced around highways like I-395 and I-66.

Rolling to Remember is organized by the group AMVETS and is dedicated to “continued advocacy for our missing in action and the veteran suicide crisis.”

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

APS to Offer Coronavirus Testing — “Beginning the week of April 19, APS will begin providing free medical testing for students and staff who are symptomatic, or who have been exposed to COVID-19. Walk-up testing will be conducted after school hours with parent/guardian consent. Walk-up testing sites at Glebe Elementary, Kenmore Middle and Wakefield High Schools provide trained staff to assist in mid-nasal swab testing using the RT-PCR test after school hours.” [Arlington Public Schools]

New DCA Concourse Opening Next Week — “The shuttle buses will soon be relocated to Philadelphia. And the air stairs, no more. After nearly 25 years, officials at Reagan National Airport on Thursday unveiled a much-anticipated addition, a sleek 14-gate concourse that will mark the end of operations of the much-maligned Gate 35X. American Airlines will begin service Tuesday out of the new concourse.” [Washington Post, NBC 4, DCist]

New Concessions Coming to DCA — Timber Pizza Co. and Peet’s Coffee are among the new food and drink options coming to National Airport and its new concourse. [Twitter, Twitter]

Group Rallies for Affordable Housing –“I’m at a rally hosted by the ACE Collaborative, community organizers who work with Asian American residents in Arlington. They’re in [Pentagon City] this evening, asking the county to take steps to end displacement as rents rise. In the immediate term, the group is calling for the county to add $8 million to its housing grant program in the next budget.” [Twitter]

Car Fire on GW Parkway — “ACFD is on scene of a vehicle fire on the GW Parkway near Spout Run. The vehicle is fully engulfed in flames, per the first arriving firefighters.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Animal Control Saves Turtle — “We need to thank Officer Davis for helping this snapping turtle, who was trying to cross I-395 during rush hour. Thankfully, she was able to safely remove him, bring him to the shelter for a check-up, and then release him back into the wild where he belongs!” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Dozens gathered in front of Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse for a rally calling for every vote from Tuesday’s election to be counted.

The “Protect the Results” rally, which kicked off at 5 p.m., was organized and promoted by a variety of local Democratic and progressive groups. It was held as the 2020 presidential race hangs in the balance, still too close to call in a number of key states.

The rally was intended as a show of support for the continued counting of ballots, including mail-in ballots. President Trump’s campaign said earlier today that it is suing to stop ballot counts in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“This morning, the president declared victory prematurely. Neither candidate has reached the threshold of 270 electoral votes,” said Democratic organizer Matt Royer. “We have millions of voters who have not been counted yet. It’s time for us to mobilize and get ready.”

“We will stand together to make sure that every vote is counted,” Royer continued. “We will not let this election be stolen from the people. Hold the line.”

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