(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Few office and retail spaces were approved or completed in the first three quarters of 2020, but Arlington officials say it is too early to attribute the drop to the pandemic or consider it a trend at all.
The 2020 third quarter report on retail, office, hotel and residential development appears to show that the rates at which projects are approved, buildings are demolished, and construction starts and ends have dropped off in 2020. Meanwhile, the demolition and redevelopment of single-family detached homes appears to remain consistent.
No hotel rooms have been approved or built so far in 2020 (though a former hotel was demolished in spectacular fashion on Sunday). About 120,000 square feet of retail has been completed this year, and 40,000 square feet approved, but rates exceeded both those sums in 2019. About 17,000 square feet of office space was approved this year, compared to 2 million last year thanks to Amazon’s HQ2.
“It would be easy to think because of COVID-19 that that might explain the tapering off of development, but it’s too early for us to know,” said county planner Emily Garrett, who led the Q3 Development Tracking Report. “It could be normal to have a slower couple of quarters following large projects.”
In the view of Marc McCauley, the director of real estate for the Arlington Economic Development office, the coronavirus has impacted existing properties more than future projects.
“If you’re in development and considering mixed-use, we haven’t heard a lot of projects significantly delayed or dropped because of concerns, but you may be concerned about getting a hotel financed,” he said. “It has not moved the needle one way or another in terms of development.”
Although these reports look back to the third quarter of 2015, that is not long enough in the scheme of big projects to determine if large-scale office, retail and mixed-use developments are actually slowing down, the two officials agreed.
Rather, such projects could be on four- to five-year cycles, which looks inconsistent compared to the 50 to 60 houses that are approved, demolished and rebuilt each quarter, like clockwork, Garrett said. Before Amazon was granted 2 million square feet in December 2019, the last time a comparable project came around was in the first quarter of 2016, she said.
As for retail, the change reflects the broader trend in Arlington’s development extending beyond the last five years. McCauley said. Retail clusters such as the Ballston Quarter explain the occasional retail spikes, but it is more common to have small amounts of ground-floor retail approved as part of a mixed-use project.
“There’s only so much retail clusters you can support,” he said. “Through long-term market cycles, they get repositioned because it’s about refreshing your concept to be able to compete for customers.”
Meanwhile, the housing development rates reflect the trajectory Arlington has been on for decades, Garrett said, with most new development focusing on denser housing near transit hubs.
“I would definitely say overall the way development trends aligns with the overall demographic trends of Arlington County for decades now,” she said.
The average household size shrank in 1970 and has been stable ever since, with more opting to live in smaller housing units, she said. The report shows that the number of apartment units is growing, while the number of single-family homes remain flat, with detached homes being replaced at a nearly one-to-one rate.
“We’re at that point where we’re looking at studies that have been completed and… seeing where there might be additional potential,” Garrett said.
Garrett said it “could be a year, or years” before the County sees the true impact of the pandemic on development. “We’ll just have to see.”
A new report released by three local civic associations says tenant protections, more housing options and community amenities would make the 22202 zip code livable.
But significant barriers — including a history of exclusionary zoning to a lack of political will from leaders — are holding the area back, the neighborhoods say.
The report was produced by Livability 22202, a coalition of the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands, and Crystal City civic associations.
“We want to ensure our neighborhood reflects the vision of an inclusive community and that residents’ voices are heard in a rapidly changing environment,” the report’s authors wrote. “By learning from the past and planning for a realistic future, we can ensure our shared values and visions as a 22202 community hold a promise that all are welcome to find a home here.”
The report coincides with heavy redevelopment and the construction of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City. It also comes as Arlington County studies the lack of “middle housing” — duplexes and other smaller-scale multifamily housing — and sponsors discussions on the effects of race-based policies in County’s past.
“We believe that the adoption of our policy solutions, together with other livability objectives, will contribute to making our neighborhood an even better and more inclusive community to live and work in,” said Susan English, of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, in a statement.
“As the County embarks on a process to overhaul its policies and practices to fill the housing ‘missing middle,’ our report and its recommendations provide a comprehensive roadmap for change,” said Tarsi Dunlop, of the Crystal City Civic Association, in a statement.
The authors predict Amazon and the other commercial and residential development will displace existing residents, and recommend assistance and policies at the local and state level for renters and owners.
The Livability 22202 members said the group will now push for their recommendations to be adopted.
In a statement to ARLnow, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said she appreciates the hard work and the recommendations, many of which are consistent with the County’s goals.
“The County, too, wants to avoid displacement, increase the housing supply, and diversify housing choices,” she said.
In response to the assertion in the report that the County lacks political will to remove housing barriers, Garvey said county staff and the County Board are working with the community to do so while avoiding political backlash that could set them back.
“We are building political will,” she said. “The Board sees increasing the housing supply and access to housing as critical to Arlington’s long term sustainability and success as a community.”
The report is the result of workshops with renters, homeowners, experts and historians, as well as a study of the history of zoning and land use in the area and current barriers to adequate housing.
In addition to housing-related recommendations, the report also makes recommendations aimed ad strengthening local community cohesion.
Those recommendations include “creating both physical and digital spaces for community building, including a full-scope community center,” and “developing policies and processes to better include renters in the community, particularly addressing barriers to information sharing with residents of high-rises.”
The Arlington County Board voted in June to extend the end date of the pilot program through December, prior to which the Board will need to make another decision on the future of so-called “shared mobility devices.”
The 102–page report says that scooters and e-bikes are a “viable complement to the County’s transportation ecosystem that increases mobility options and provides potential sustainability benefits.” However, it also lists eight recommendations to improve the program, including making sure scooters and e-bikes are more evenly deployed in upper as well as lower income areas.
The authors of the report noted that mapping neighborhood income levels over trip origin locations indicate that many people started scooter trips while in neighborhoods with incomes below the Arlington County’s median household income, “suggesting that [scooters and e-bikes] could be appealing to lower-income residents and promoting equity.”
Other improvement recommendations in the report included:
- Adding more infrastructure for cyclists and scooters, including protected bike lanes along the county’s main travel corridors — a plan outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
- Addressing complaints about improper parking by creating maps with approved spots as well as “no-go” areas.
- Addressing accessibility for lower-income scooter riders. The report notes the requirement users have a credit card can be burdensome.
“The pilot showed that shared scooters can significantly decrease car trips, which makes streets safer, our community happier and our air cleaner,” Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Gillian Burgess told ARLnow of the report.
“But we’ve also learned that people are just not comfortable scooting on sidewalks or even our current non-protected bike lanes,” she said. “We want to leave sidewalks to people on two feet and those who are slow rolling.”
The county’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) wrote a letter in September saying they were “generally supportive” of continuing the program, but remained “concerned about the impact these devices have on the pedestrian environment when they are ridden or parked on the clear zone of the sidewalk.”
The PAC wrote that more bike lanes would remove pedestrian-scooter conflicts, but other measures like barring e-bikes from some trails and capping the hours they can ridden (as one D.C. Councilmember attempted) are “unnecessary.”
The Arlington County Board is due to discuss the future of the pilot program at the end of December.
In April, a staff presentation to the County Board indicated riders tooks 313,166 trips on scooters since the program began with an unsanctioned deployment of Bird scooters last year. Between June 2018 and April 2019, users travelled 307,243 miles with an average length of 1 mile per trip.
But with more scooters came a flood of safety and littering complaints — which the report notes decreased over time as perhaps riders followed rules better, or because of officials responding to complaints by capping scooters’ speeds, installing parking corrals, and restricting users’ ability to ride on some public lands.
Data from the Arlington County Police Department indicated an increase in the number of reported crashes involving scooters from four in 2018 to eight this year so far. However, measuring the actual number of crashes is difficult as data from the ACPD only captures the incidents reported to the police, and the Dept. of Motor Vehicles did not yet have codes for tracking scooter-related incidents.
The new report also notes that scooters and e-bikes merit more short-term and long-term analysis from county planners. Examples of topics county staff want to study further include:
- Analyzing demographics of users and where they ride (especially late at night), as well as where complaints most often occur.
- Learning whether the parking corrals installed for scooters reduced complaints, and whether they created any problems for users.
- Measuring the impact that sharing sidewalks with scooters has on people with disabilities (for example, when illicitly-parked scooters block the way for people in wheelchairs)
Overall, the report’s recommendations mirror those recently issued in Alexandria, where City Councilmembers urged companies to deploy more scooters outside of the Old Town and Del Ray neighborhoods.
“I look forward to the County Board adopting a permanent shared micro-mobility program before the January deadline,” said Burgess. “I also am hopeful that the Board will fix some of their ableist policies that discriminate against e-bikes and will update their bike lane policies to be inclusive and current.”
Map and graph via Arlington County
The most successful women in the U.S. live in Arlington, according to a new study by the website SmartAsset.
The study looked at 100 cities in the U.S. and ranked them based on six factors: the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree, full-time working women’s median earnings, the percent of female business owners, the female unemployment rate, full-time, working women’s housing-income ratio, and the percentage of working women with an income of at least $75,000.
Here’s what SmartAsset wrote about Arlington:
Arlington, Virginia takes the top spot. This city has the highest paid women in the study, according to Census Bureau data. The median full-time working woman in Arlington earns over $80,200 per year. In total nearly 57% of women here earn at least $75,000 per year. And Arlington women do more than earn large paychecks.
For one, they also make up 38.6% of people working in their own private businesses and just under 35% of women here have a bachelor’s degree. In fact, the only metric this city does not score in the top 10 for is housing cost as a percent of income. According to our data, if the average full-time working woman paid for the average home they would spend just around 30% of their income
Arlington’s neighbors, D.C. and Alexandria, also broke into the top ten, with Alexandria in a tie with San Francisco for fourth place and D.C. ranked No. 8.
SmartAsset also recently ranked Arlington as the number one “city” for runners.
A report has shown that areas of wealth and disadvantage exist very close together in Arlington, sometimes just blocks away from each other.
The report by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation, entitled “Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia,” identifies what it calls 15 “islands of disadvantage,” where people face multiple serious challenges.
Those challenges include the levels of pre-school enrollment, teens out of high school, whether people have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the level of English spoken in a household, unemployment rate, child poverty rate, health insurance rate and more.
Of those “islands,” three are either wholly or partly in Arlington: one near the county’s border with Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners; another along Columbia Pike in the Douglas Park neighborhood; and another in the area of Buckingham and Fort Myer.
The report also found that neighborhoods separated by one thoroughfare can have very different demographics, housing and poverty levels.
“A striking example was near Ballston Common [Mall, rebranded as Ballston Quarter], where residents in two census tracts on either side of North Glebe Road — tracts 1019 and 1020.01 — faced very different living conditions,” the report reads. “In census tract 1019, east of N. Glebe Road, 85 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree or higher education and the median household income exceeded $160,000 per year.
“Just west of N. Glebe Road, in tract 1020.01, 30 percent of teens ages 15-17 years were not enrolled in school, only 38 percent of adults had a Bachelor’s degree and 48 percent of the population was uninsured.”
It also found that life expectancy can vary by as much as 10 years across the county, “from 78 years in the Buckingham area to 88 years in parts of Rosslyn and Aurora Highlands.”
To help improve conditions, the report recommended better access to health care, education and affordable housing.
“In today’s knowledge economy, advancement requires better access to education — from preschool through college — and economic development to bring jobs with livable wages to disadvantaged areas,” it reads. “And it requires an investment in the infrastructure of neglected neighborhoods, to make the living environment healthier and safer, to provide transportation, and to improve public safety. What is good for our health is also good for the economy and will make Arlington County a stronger community for all of its residents.”
A recent report by a national nonprofit found that more than 6,000 people are employed by more than 600 businesses and organizations that support the arts in Arlington County.
In a report prepared by Americans For The Arts entitled, “The Creative Industries: Business & Employment,” 658 arts-related businesses were found to employ 6,124 people. Those arts-related businesses are defined as arts schools/services; design/publishing; film, radio and television; museum/collections; performing arts; and visual/photography.
The creative industries account for 5.1 percent of the total number of businesses located in Arlington County and 3 percent of the people they employ, according to the report.
“Arts businesses and the creative people they employ stimulate innovation, strengthen America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy,” the report reads. “In a global economy, the creative industries are durable and enduring local employers.”
The report’s findings brought praise from local group Embracing Arlington Arts, a citizen group that focuses on informing others about the importance of art in the Arlington community.
Chair Janet Kopenhaver said arts’ support of the economy goes beyond those directly employed in the creative industries, and contributes a great deal.
“When considering that, according to another economic study, over $18 million of economic activity in Arlington is derived from audience expenditures associated with arts events, including eating at restaurants, parking, ticket sales and other purchases made during their night out, these industries economically contribute so much to our county,” Kopenhaver said in a statement.
Images via Americans for the Arts.
The report, prepared by a committee of five group members over the summer, made various recommendations for the park’s short, medium and long-term future.
It looks to find ways to manage stormwater runoff into Four Mile Run from surfaces that do not absorb rainwater and to ensure the park remains well-used. The report was drafted after the Arlington County Board sent plans to reduce its size back to the drawing board.
The report said taking down two county-owned warehouses on S. Oakland Street, adjacent to the park, would help manage stormwater runoff and allow a connection between the dog park and a proposed arts district nearby.
“In addition to addressing some adjacent stormwater issues, this would serve an array of complementary objectives such as integrating this new park area and the dog park with the arts district, provide a flexible-use area for festivals and arts events, provide swing space for recreational functions as Jennie Dean Park is developed, and improve connectivity and open up the line of sight from South Four Mile Drive into the park,” the report reads.
But in suggesting those warehouses be taken down, some group members argued the committee exceeded the scope of its study.
“I felt as though the report spent a lot of time on issues that frankly were not in the group’s charge,” said group vice chair Robin Stombler. Others noted that a report on a potential arts district suggested using the warehouses as space for artists.
Longtime civic leader Carrie Johnson expressed her disappointment at what she described as a “disputed space problem,” and urged the group to find a compromise between the warehouses’ use in the arts district or removal for the dog park.
“I would have hoped to hear less fighting over acreage and more about how it could be used for everybody’s benefit,” she said.
In the short-term, the group recommended various small ways to help manage stormwater at the park, including no longer mowing the grass, protecting existing trees and limiting access to the stream.
But in the medium term, the report called on county government to show leadership in managing stormwater runoff from its buildings to help protect the park. They also urged an expansion of a program where businesses receive grants and other incentives to install ways to manage stormwater through green roofs, rain barrels and the like.
The area’s current zoning encourages making changes through redevelopment, as opposed to incentivizing existing businesses to make those environmentally-friendly tweaks.
“There seems to be no answer here, because the county seems unable to change anything for the existing businesses until they redevelop,” said Anne Inman, a group member.
The report noted that the need to balance stormwater with the park’s popularity is a “catch-22,” as “leaving the park in its current condition is not a viable long-term solution, but efforts to mitigate the environmental issues would trigger significant, costly and undesirable changes to the park.”
Group chair Charles Monson said they will not look to endorse any report prepared by a committee, but will instead use them to guide their thinking as planning the area’s future continues.
The report’s full recommendations are after the jump.
Two officers, Steven Yanda and Matt Chattillion, shot 28-year-old Daniel George Boak of Centreville on May 17 around 4:30 p.m. after he struck Yanda with his black pickup truck. The officers were attempting a traffic stop at the highway’s Glebe Road exit.
“The totality of the circumstances confronting Officer Yanda and Officer Chattillion at that moment presented an imminent danger of serious injury or death to Officer Yanda and potentially a danger to others at the scene, thereby justifying the use of deadly force to defend Officer Yanda and others,” Stamos wrote.
Stamos’ report said that Boak did not comply with officers’ commands to show his hands when he stopped, and he instead accelerated into Yanda, pinned him against a white Toyota sedan in front with his car and continued to accelerate.
“I could feel pressure on my leg increasing,” Stamos quotes Yanda as saying in his statement to investigators. “He wasn’t just bumping me and then reversing. He continued to come forward. So, it seemed he was trying to injure or kill me. I feared for my life.”
Both fired into the vehicle and struck Boak four times: in the head, neck chest and forearm. Another officer who arrived on scene then placed the car into reverse to free his colleague. Boak was pronounced dead at Virginia Hospital Center at approximately 5:30 p.m. that same day, after the officers attempted CPR.
Stamos said the officers’ statements on the incident were consistent, as well as the statements from civilians in cars nearby. Stamos added that video from Yanda’s in-car camera and from a balcony overlooking the exit show him trapped between the two cars.
A blood sample found that Boak had traces of cocaine, morphine and heroin in his bloodstream, as well as a zip lock baggie in his car containing a small amount of cocaine and a glass-tube smoking device that contained cocaine residue. Stamos also noted that Boak’s family members said he had a heroin addiction and “problems with authority.”
A method of repairing water pipes, utilized by Arlington County, could be exposing residents and workers to health risks, according to new research.
A report out of Purdue University in Indiana found that the procedure, called cured-in-place pipe repair (CIPP), can emit harmful chemicals into the air, which sometimes are visible as plumes of smoke. Those nearby could then be exposed.
The research found evidence of hazardous air pollutants — chemicals that disrupt the body’s endocrine system and can cause tumors, birth defects and other developmental disorders.
Arlington uses CIPP, also known as pipe relining, to fix sanitary sewer pipes. It involves inserting a fabric tube filled with resin into a damaged pipe and curing it in place with hot water, pressurized steam, or sometimes with ultraviolet light. The result is a new plastic pipe manufactured inside the damaged one that is just as strong.
There have been several reported instances of the odors produced by the relining work prompting calls to the Arlington County Fire Department. Last year ACFD’s hazmat team responded to a Chinese restaurant in Falls Church after reports of an “unusual odor in the bathroom,” which was later determined to have been caused by relining work. In 2010, “numerous” residents of a North Arlington neighborhood called to report “a pervasive chemical odor,” also during relining work.
Andrew Whelton, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering and the Environmental and Ecological Engineering program, led a team of researchers who conducted a study at seven steam-cured CIPP installations in Indiana and California.
“CIPP is the most popular water-pipe rehabilitation technology in the United States,” Whelton said in a statement. “Short- and long-term health impacts caused by chemical mixture exposures should be immediately investigated. Workers are a vulnerable population, and understanding exposures and health impacts to the general public is also needed.”
A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said in an email that staff stays up to date on new research about its repair methods.
“The County is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents, workers and contractors,” spokeswoman Jessica Baxter wrote in an email. “CIPP (Cured-in-place pipe) is a national industry practice that is performed throughout the country and world to reline pipes. As new studies and findings come to light, the industry and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety will need to determine if additional protection mitigation steps are needed — and we, as well as our contractors, will monitor this for any needed changes.”
Researchers said workers must better protect themselves from any harmful chemicals that are emitted, and local health officials must conduct full investigations when they receive reports of unusual odors or illnesses near CIPP sites. Baxter said the county already provides plenty of information to residents near such work.
“When the County plans work to reline a section of sanitary sewer pipe, residents whose homes are directly connected to the pipe receive a notice prior to the work explaining the process and how to prevent fumes from entering their homes,” Baxter said. “The County also has a list of recommendations for homeowners on our website.”
New apartment and condo buildings close to Metro stations in Arlington could have fewer parking spaces, and more spaces for bikes and car-sharing services, under a recommendation by a county working group.
The group is made up of residents and other stakeholders, and came together in 2016 to work on a policy to guide county staff on required parking for new apartment and condo buildings.
Staff is now asking for feedback on those recommendations in an online survey, which is open through April 18.
The group’s first recommendation was to reduce the number of spaces available depending on how close a new building is to a Metro station. According to the final report, members were split evenly on how low that parking ratio of units to spaces should be.
One proposal would have 0.4 parking spaces per unit for a building less than one-eighth of a mile from a Metro station, and up to 0.8 parking spaces per unit for a building less than a mile away. The other would have even fewer spaces per unit.
The working group also recommended that if developers provide parking spaces for bicycles and car-sharing, they should be permitted to reduce vehicle parking spaces. The group said that providing 10 bicycle parking spaces should allow two fewer vehicle spots, while adding a Capital Bikeshare station and paying for its upkeep should mean up to four fewer spaces.
Committed affordable housing units would also see lower parking ratios if close to Metro, due to what the report said is lower demand for parking spaces.
Units priced at 40 percent of area median income would not be required to provide any parking spaces, while affordable homes at 60 percent AMI would be required to provide 0.7 spaces per unit.
Other recommendations include a one-time payment by developers for “excess” parking, expanding shared parking on-site, and permitting developers to provide 100 percent of parking off-site, provided it is no further than 800 feet from the building and is secured for at least 10 years.
Starting tomorrow, citizens and insurance companies may purchase the online reports for any accident occurring on or after Saturday, September 1.
The digitization will be done through a partnership with the Carfax Police Crash Assistance Program. Reports will be stored in a secure electronic database on the ACPD website, and will post within five to seven days of each accident.
In addition to making reports more easily accessible to the public, the new electronic system is expected to cut overhead costs for ACPD by eliminating administrative staff time needed to process each request. On average, police departments spend about $35,000 each year to manually reproduce accident reports. ACPD anticipates the new system will virtually eliminate this cost.
Residents who don’t wish to use the electronic system will still have the option to obtain accident reports by mail or in person at the police department during normal business hours.