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Donations at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (photo via Facebook)

An estimated 7.8% of Arlington households experienced food insecurity in 2019, according to a new report.

The report, completed by Urban Institute in partnership with Arlington County Food Security Task Force, provides a snapshot of the financial and food challenges for Arlington households, including in otherwise pricey parts of town like Crystal City and Pentagon City.

“Despite the area’s reputation as wealthy and well-resourced, more than 6,700 of the county’s 108,604 households were referred to the Arlington Food Assistance Center in 2021, signaling that this abundance is not shared by all residents,” the report says.

The report made many recommendations to the county, including to incentivize affordable grocers, offer gas cards, subsidize public transportation, expand SNAP outreach, provide grocery gift cards, subsidize or waive grocery delivery fees for SNAP participants, and open more free food distribution sites in higher need areas.

The study, conducted last year and released this month, indicated food insecurity rates were higher particularly in the Glencarlyn, Buckingham, Ashton Heights, Pentagon City, Crystal City, Forest Glen, Arlington Mill neighborhoods.

A map shows concentrations of food insecurity in parts of Arlington (via Arlington County)

“We surveyed residents living in four neighborhoods with the highest food insecurity rates (from 13.3 to 14.6 percent) in the county and found that residents were more likely to rent their homes and have low incomes, and 17 percent were Social Security beneficiaries, which suggests they are living on a fixed income,” the report says.

For residents experiencing food insecurity, budgets for food were often the first to be cut in order to pay bills like rent and utilities. Some of the factors affecting the ability to buy food included the local food environment, labor market, transportation, housing, child care and debt.

Food accessibility

The study considered grocery store or other non-convenience retail food locations accessible if they were within 40 minutes of roundtrip travel. Such stores were accessible to most residents, even those that lived in neighborhoods with high estimated food insecurity rates.

But residents that were surveyed prioritized groceries’ cost when determining where to shop, making it more challenging to afford healthy food.

“Residents reported some challenges in paying for groceries, especially meat, as the cost of food increased 6.3 percent (and 14.8 percent for meat) between December 2020 and December 2021,” the report said.

Those who were food insecure were more likely to walk, get a ride or use Metro to get groceries than those who were food secure and likely own a car. About half of the residents experiencing food insecurity during the survey used free groceries or meals, according to the report, and most of those residents said they accessed those resources one to three times each month.

While the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas had relatively high estimated food insecurity rates compared with the rest of the county, they had low access to existing charitable food resources.

Food insecurity disproportionately affects Black, Hispanic, and Asian households in Arlington, according to the report. Asian households with low incomes, of which there was a concentration in the Crystal City area, had to travel farther to access charitable food sites, compared with Black and Hispanic households.

Arlington County says it’s reviewing the report.

“The Food Security Task Force is reviewing findings and recommendations from the study, and will consider investments where Arlington County could build on its strengths and address residents’ concerns and barriers,” a newsletter from Arlington Department of Human Services said.

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Is Arlington experiencing a Gen Z takeover?

Zoomers — the generation born after 1997 — make up the “only active generation of apartment seekers nationwide,” and they are disproportionately choosing Arlington County, according to a new study from RentCafe.

Between 2020 and 2021, Arlington saw a 55% increase in apartment applications submitted by this age group, according to the website, which follows trends in the apartment market. It analyzed 3.2 million applications for the study.

“Once known as a verified Millennial hub, Arlington is getting a much-needed glow-up from this up-and-coming generation of young renters, ranking as the country’s sixth trendiest Gen Z hub,” RentCafe said.

That ranks Arlington behind the cities of San Francisco, Jersey City, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston and ahead of San Jose (California) and Seattle.

Zoomers are gravitating here after spending a one-year hiatus back home or in their college towns, RentCafe says.

“Young adults returned to their families’ homes in larger numbers in 2020, and with Gen Z being particularly affected by the pandemic, it’s safe to say it played an important role in their migration pattern,” RentCafe spokeswoman Michelle Cretu tells ARLnow.

But now, as society emerges from the pandemic, Zoomers are “following in the footsteps of their Millennial counterparts when it comes to independent living,” she said.

Millennials came to Arlington in droves during the Obama years, according to a previous RentCafe study, which found 52% of Crystal City’s population was made up of the generation also known as Gen Y. For them, Arlington offered employment opportunities plus plenty of nightlife and housing options, Cretu said.

Now, Gen Yers are in their home-buying years, and many are ditching their renter status to buy homes in Alexandria, Reston and Frederick, Maryland, according to RentCafe.

Younger Millennials, however, are still renting because they’ve been “outpriced by an overly competitive housing market,” she said.

Data show the new generation is, on a relative basis, choosing Arlington over D.C., which recorded a smaller increase — 31% — in the share of Gen Z renters. The City of Alexandria, the 13th trendiest Zoomer hub, also ranks higher than the District.

“So, it’s not a matter of Gen Z not choosing D.C., but one of Zoomers choosing Arlington in higher numbers,” Cretu said.

One reason is Arlington’s growing concentration of tech jobs, fueled in part by the construction of Amazon’s second headquarters.

“While both cities score in diversity and vibrant social scenes, Arlington is a developing city where new career opportunities are just emerging,” she said.

Zoomers are showing a keen interest in tech jobs, with three in 10 ranking software development as their top career choice, according to a study by the software company CloudBees. So it comes as no surprise that they are choosing Arlington alongside the well-known tech sectors of San Francisco and Seattle and the new tech hubs of Atlanta, San Diego and Baltimore.

Another factor behind the trends Cretu cited is that Arlington has bigger apartments.

Developers are building larger units here than they were five years ago, while in D.C., the average square footage of a new apartment is shrinking. The prospect of more spacious new construction could also be why the RentCafe list features suburbs of New York City and Dallas.

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Deer in Bluemont Park (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is bucking the results of a study suggesting the county has a deer problem.

Arlington County hired a consultant last spring to count the local deer population using drones. The company published a report in September saying that parts of Arlington had populations of 20-39 deer per square mile in certain places, exceeding what’s considered healthy (between 5 and 15 deer per square mile).

In a statement released Monday, AWLA, which oversees animal control for Arlington County, disputed the idea that the local deer population reaches unhealthy levels and urged the county to adopt a “practical, humane, and sustainable deer management plan” that doesn’t place too much focus on the numbers.

“From our extensive work in humane wildlife management, we know from experience that the issue is not the number of deer but rather the conflicts we have with them,” AWLA President & CEO Samuel Wolbert and Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint said.

The joint statement comes as county staff prepare to incorporate this data into a broader look at what steps Arlington needs to take, if any, to maintain a healthy white-tailed deer population.

Wolbert and Toussaint say there’s “scientific basis” for the claim that 5-15 deer per square mile is healthy, arguing no single count of deer qualifies as over-population.

“The fact is, determining a ‘healthy carrying capacity’ is a political judgement that is not rooted in biology: some communities, and even areas within a community, will be able to sustain different numbers of deer based on multiple factors, like type and quality of food and cover,” they said. “There is no one ‘magic’ number that any community should have. Saying Arlington County, with 13 deer per square mile, has too many deer is a political determination and not based on the environment in which the deer are located.”

AWLA leaders say complaints about deer may have precipitated this survey, but of all the calls and online reports their animal control division receives related to wildlife, relatively few involve deer.

Since November 2020, when it launched an online reporting system, AWLA has received over 650 wildlife concerns, and of those, 17 (3%) related to deer. Meanwhile, in 2021, 131 calls of the 2,733 calls for service related to wildlife (or 5%) were deer-related — and the most common concern was about the health of orphaned fawns.

“If there truly were ‘too many deer’ we, as the County’s wildlife experts, would have more deer-related complaints or issues arising from deer — which is simply not the case,” Wolbert and Toussaint said.

As for the argument that deer contribute to the destruction of the forest understory, cited in the report, AWLA leaders argue that deers are unfairly blamed for the impacts of other factors.

“It’s easy to blame deer for any forestry growth woes, when the reality is that forests are affected by many factors: insect damage, disease, pollutants (like harsh fertilizers), invasive species, increased foot traffic, climate and weather extremes, over-development… and deer,” Wolbert and Toussaint write.

In response, Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation said the survey was just the first step in determining whether Arlington needs to more actively manage deer. Next, the county will hire a professional wildlife consultant to interpret this data and gather additional information to determine if and how deer are impacting the natural landscape, said DPR spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

All this information will guide a public engagement process that will culminate with a presentation to the County Board this summer.

“Deer are necessary aspects of wildlife with important ecological functions when in balance with the surrounding habitat,” Kalish said. “Arlington takes its role as a steward of wildlife and its natural lands seriously.”

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) Arlington County police created a new foot pursuit policy, updated how officers use force and pursue vehicles, and began making more data and information accessible to the public.

Those are a few of the changes at the police department in response to an external report on Arlington’s policing practices publicly released on Wednesday. Some policy updates are still being finalized.

Following a study by the Police Practices Group, a work group that reviewed the police department’s policies and made more than 100 recommendations for changes, an external law enforcement and public safety consulting firm reviewed several areas of the department and made additional recommendations.

The firm, Hillard Heintze, recommended the department create a recruitment policy, better utilize data it collects, and offer training designed for those seeking promotion or special assignments, among other recommendations. They evaluated practices and policies across internal affairs, use of force, cameras, recruitment and retention, training and supervision and data/statistics.

The department has compiled responses to the findings and recommendations, creating a number of new policies, revising others and making information they already have or collect, such as internal disciplinary actions, more readily available.

County Manager Mark Schwartz said ACPD devoted hundreds of hours to providing the firm with what they needed for the study.

“As the report noted, ACPD sets a high standard for behavior and accountability for itself, which is demonstrated by how officers interact with the community,” he wrote in a letter to the community about the report. “In addition, there were suggestions for improved policies and practices which ACPD immediately embraced once identified by HH and the PPG.”

The external review took place while some changes identified were already underway to address the recommendations from the Police Practices Group, which provided its final report early in 2021. The PPG’s report guided appropriations included in the County Board’s 2022 budget, and guided the ordinance that created a Community Oversight Board.

The PPG also influenced ACPD to revise its use-of-force policies to ensure they lined up with best practices and community expectations, according to the report. The policy was updated to include “prohibiting the use of neck restraints unless immediately necessary, clarifying officer’s responsibility to intervene to prevent or stop the use of excessive force, rendering first aid when necessary, highlighting the sanctity of life, increasing focus on de-escalation and other updates.”

Since these updates were already underway, the external firm had no specific recommendations relating to the new use of force policy but did say the department should “closely scrutinize use-of-force incidents, audit use-of-force training to ensure policy is operationalized on the street and ensure it has incorporated the new requirements into training.”

“I truly believe ACPD is an exceptional police department, but recognize there is always room for improvement,” Arlington Police Chief Andy Penn said in a statement to ARLnow. “Many of the recommendations outlined in the external assessment help move us forward in our mission to reduce incidences of crime and improve quality of life and have already been acted on by ACPD.”

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is welcoming a drop in car-related crimes, which have trended upwards during the pandemic years.

Preliminary data from the Arlington County Police Department indicates carjackings dropped from 16 in 2020 to eight in 2021, while car thefts dropped from 323 in 2020 to 306 in 2021. Finalized numbers will be published later this year in ACPD’s annual crime report.

“After a temporary rise in car thefts in the first half of the year, our office helped to spearhead the formation of a regional task force, resulting in a marked decrease in car-related crimes in the second half of the year,” Dehghani-Tafti, the top prosecutor for Arlington and the City of Falls Church, said in her most recent newsletter. “Most of the recent car thefts are a result of cars left unlocked, unoccupied and idling.”

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, carjackings soared in Arlington — from one case in 2019 to 16 in 2020 — and the rest of the D.C. area. This uptick prompted more police patrols in the first half of 2021 and, by the summer, a coordinated regional response.

Preliminary data on carjackings and car thefts in 2021 (via ACPD)

From January through June, ACPD recorded 160 motor vehicle thefts and from July to December, ACPD recorded 146 similar crimes, which is “a good percentage drop,” Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow.

Per the 2020 annual report, motor vehicle thefts have a ways to go if they’re to fall back to levels last seen in 2018 and 2019, when there were 171 and 227, respectively.

Property crimes from 2016 to 2020 (via ACPD)

Dehghani-Tafti said she called attention to the drops in car-related crimes — as well as the zero recorded homicides last year and the lower rates of gun violence compared to other U.S. cities — in her newsletter to provide a counterpoint those who are saying crime is up under her tenure.

Dehghani-Tafti was elected in 2019 on a pledge to reform the criminal justice system by reducing racial disparities in prosecution as well as recidivism and incarceration, and investigating wrongful convictions. Last year, there was an effort to recall her that accused her of offering criminals lenient plea deals.

“[T]he more general point I was making in the digest is twofold: the first is that, contrary to some of the overheated rhetoric in certain quarters, crime remained low and we’ve kept our word in devoting resources to serious crimes, hence our record in the last year, including tackling a number of cold homicide and rape cases; second, I wanted to be intellectually honest that a lot of people deserve credit for crime being low, and to give them thanks for it,” she tells ARLnow.

Specifically, she thanked the Department of Human Services and the county government for funding social services, the Arlington School Board for diverting kids from the criminal justice system — it removed police officers from schools in 2021 — as well as ACPD for its deescalation work and community policing and the Sheriff’s Office for helping to reduce the jail population.

She says the jail population “consistently remains at its lowest levels in Arlington history,” although it has increased from a record low of 209 in June 2020 to 265 in December 2021.

As additional evidence of crime remaining low, she pointed to the zero homicides recorded in 2021 and relatively low rates of gun violence compared to other jurisdictions.

ACPD confirmed that no 2021 deaths have been ruled a homicide, which would be down from three in 2020 and two in 2019. There is, however, an open investigation into the deaths of two people in a Ballston apartment in December.

Two reported deaths in Arlington in 2021 fall outside ACPD’s jurisdiction and reporting: the man who stabbed, shot and killed a police officer outside the Pentagon this summer and the death of a security contractor at the U.S. State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center.

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Oh deer: Arlington officially has a white-tailed problem.

A study has found that some parts of Arlington have deer populations three to five times greater than what’s considered healthy.

Earlier this year, drones equipped with infrared technology — and permission from federal agencies — flew over Arlington to count the number of deer in the county. The result represents the first ever accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population, according to the county.

From April 8-12, drones registered and the independent firm Steward Green confirmed the presence of 290 deer in Arlington, according to the report. The firm recommends more “management” where populations are the highest and greater monitoring everywhere else.

Following the report’s release in the fall, the county intends to hire a consultant this winter who will determine what that management strategy should be.

While white-tailed deer can contribute to a region’s natural habitat, elevated populations impede the growth of young trees and hurt local flora and fauna, according to the report. They also pose problems for humans, such as vehicle collisions, which have trended down in Arlington since 2020 but are still common in Virginia.

“High deer densities… can lead to intolerable levels of damage to native ecosystems, crops, commercial and residential landscaping, as well as increased safety concerns from deer-vehicle collisions and tick-borne illnesses,” said the report, released this fall.

Deer populations countywide exceed what the land can support, the report says.

“All the areas surveyed in this study have a deer density that is likely beyond the threshold of carrying capacity, have intensified invasive flora, have depleted habitat for (tick eating) ground nesting birds (oven birds, etc.)… and have possible starvation/disease for the deer,” the report said.

Wildlife biologists, ecologists and environmental professionals consider five to 15 deer per square mile to be “healthy,” according to the report. The consultants recommend suburban areas aim for 10 deer per square mile. Arlington has a total of 26 square miles, including both urban and wooded areas.

North Arlington, neighborhoods along the western edge of the county and neighborhoods southwest of Arlington National Cemetery had the highest deer populations, according to the study.

In the following sections, which correspond with the map below, densities ranged between 20 and 39 deer per square mile.

Section G, which includes Army Navy Country Club and is bounded by Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Blvd and I-395, had 20 deer per square mile.

Section D, which includes the neighborhoods near Bluemont Park and Upton Hill Regional Park and is bounded by the western county edge, I-66 and Arlington Blvd, had 28 deer per square mile.

Section A, which includes the neighborhoods of North Arlington near Marymount University, Potomac Overlook Regional Park and Donaldson Run and is bounded by Langston Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, had 33 deer per square mile.

Section F, which includes neighborhoods north of Columbia Pike near the county’s western border, had 39 deer per square mile.

Total deer per section in Arlington (via Arlington County)

The consultant says the 290 figure is likely conservative because of the “challenges of daytime collection,” and recommended future counts obtain clearance to fly at night. The drone had to dodge low-flying helicopters and airplanes and had unclear readings due to the presence of competing heat sources.

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Current view of Route 1 (via National Landing BID)

The state’s idea to lower elevated segments of Route 1 through Crystal City could cause more injuries to pedestrians and chronic congestion, according to a new report.

This summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation officially decided to turn Route 1, which is elevated over 12th, 15th and 18th Streets S., into an at-grade urban boulevard. It would feature wide buffered sidewalks on both sides, six to seven narrowed travel lanes, a 30-mph speed limit, wide crosswalks, landscaping and medians with pedestrian refuges.

The changes, which could cost $180 million, are aimed at making the corridor more pedestrian-friendly, but that may not actually be the case, according to the VDOT-commissioned report. Using Arlington County rush hour traffic forecasts, the report predicts pedestrian-involved crashes could increase.

Meanwhile, travel times could lengthen by up to 6 minutes for vehicles heading into Crystal City in the morning and heading out in the afternoon, due largely to delays for drivers turning left on Route 1 and several commuter bus stops getting rerouted.

Arlington County staff questioned how these negatives could square with VDOT’s preference for the concept, per a staff report. They suggested that the authors make the negative results of the traffic analysis clearer.

“An at-grade Route 1 has many operational challenges,” county staff said. “The short block lengths between parallel streets result in the need to coordinate signals and thus, the pedestrian delays will be increased on the minor parallel routes. The results point to negative impacts on the ability of transit to effectively serve the National Landing area. The at-grade scenario shown in the preferred alternative offers a more limited network connectivity while simultaneously introducing conflicts and sacrificing transit mobility.”

The report, prepared by engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn, specifically recommends one at-grade option that allows all turns at 15th Street S., eliminates left turns at 18th Street S., and possibly includes a pedestrian underpass or overpass at 18th Street.

The state initially agreed to the study and changes to Route 1 as part of its 2018 agreement with Amazon to invest in transportation in the region.

Rendering of potential changes to Route 1 (via National Landing BID)

Pedestrian safety 

As progress ramped up on the study, locals and organizations following the Route 1 project have kept pedestrian safety front and center.

When VDOT initially considered a nine-lane highway, advocates said that would be unsafe for pedestrians and the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) created its own renderings for a tree-lined and pedestrian-friendly Route 1.

After VDOT revised its proposal and announced its intention to bring Route 1 at-grade, Livability 22202 — a coalition of three area civic associations — rejected the study for several reasons, chief among them that even the new six- to seven-lane highway would not, in their view, improve pedestrian safety.

Data in the report appears to bear that conclusion out. Over two decades, pedestrian traffic during peak afternoon hours could increase 2x to 5x current levels, and with that could come more crashes involving pedestrians.

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An airplane overhead, as seen from Gravelly Point (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

With the opening of a new concourse at Reagan National Airport, aircraft noise above Arlington remains at a high volume and the region is still studying ways to mitigate the roar.

Resident complaints about noises overhead have been constant for years, due to the flight patterns into National Airport and Pentagon-bound helicopters. Most of complaints are from those who live near the Potomac River, which is the general flight path of most jets arriving and departing the airport.

Last week, at the official celebration for the opening of DCA’s new concourse, Congressman Don Beyer bid “good riddance” to the infamous Gate 35X, assuring residents the new gate won’t exacerbate noise.

“While the new facilities will improve the passenger experience, this will not lead to increased flights or aircraft noise, a frequent concern in the region,” he later said in a tweet. “And I will continue the work to mitigate aircraft noise in our area!”

This year, several separate studies and reports have floated potential solutions to quieting the skies. One study, commissioned by Arlington County and Montgomery County, is ongoing, as the scope shifts from inbound to outbound aircraft.

The joint study advised in April to reroute incoming aircraft so they increasingly fly over the Potomac River instead of “residential and noise-sensitive areas.”

The recommendations were made to the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group (CWG), which operates under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

CWG in turn passed them onto the Federal Aviation Administration, though it remains unclear if and when the FAA will act on the suggestions.

The conclusions and process have upset some residents of North Arlington neighborhoods located near the river. During public comments at the Sept. 18 County Board meeting, Chain Bridge Forest resident Alice Doyle said the altered flight paths would cause her and neighbors to bear the brunt of noise.

“To be clear, this means that neighborhoods like Chain Bridge Forest and Arlingwood that sit near the Chain Bridge not only see zero relief from airplane noise, we will now see and hear even more flights overhead,” she said. “The flight disturbance over our homes is almost constant with occasional periods of relief. Under this plan, those much needed moments of noise relief will disappear. ”

She also criticized the county for being “half tuned into the process” and not having enough representatives at the CWG meeting.

County Board member Libby Garvey responded that she understood Doyle’s concerns, but said the report recommends shifting the flight patterns to lessen the burden on Arlington’s more populated areas.

She reiterated in federal issues such as this one, the best county officials can do is to make recommendations.

Now, the joint study has a new focus: departing flights, Arlington County spokeswoman Bryna Helfer tells ARLnow.

“Technical work on new draft procedures for north-flow departures is currently the focus of the study and a community meeting to present those draft procedures will be scheduled before the end of 2021,” she wrote in an email.

In 2018, Arlington and Montgomery counties agreed to split the $250,000 cost of the study, which was officially launched in 2020. For the departing flights study, Arlington paid an additional $50,000, and Montgomery an additional $100,000, Helfer said.

CWG will meet again next Thursday, Oct. 28.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Defense also completed studies this year. The GAO report from September recommends the FAA use easier-to-understand noise metrics.

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Reducing local helicopter noise while conducting missions safely may be difficult, the Pentagon says, but the military is willing to try, according to a new report.

The commitment and the recommendations conclude a Dept. of Defense report on the causes and effects of helicopter noise in the D.C. area. This document was completed as a result of Rep. Don Beyer’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which included noise mitigation recommendations that Beyer and other regional lawmakers have sought for years in response to constituent complaints.

“The recommendations in this report reflect priorities my constituents have sought for years to reduce helicopter noise in Northern Virginia, and would make a real difference across the region,” Beyer said. “In particular, the commitment from DoD to study the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes would be a real game changer.”

The other action items would help reduce noise and improve transparency and engagement with the community, he said.

“I thank the Department of Defense for undertaking and releasing this report, and urge the rapid implementation of these recommendations,” Beyer said.

Residents of certain Arlington neighborhoods have lived with helicopter noise for many years, and it is a thorny issue among them. Previous discussions around noise mitigation ended in a stalemate, as officials say agencies have to also consider safety, which includes avoiding the abundance of commercial airplanes in the region.

There are more than 50 helicopter operators in the area and the biggest contributor is the Army, followed by the Marine Corps. The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force combined conducted 21,863 operations — although that does not translate to 21,863 flights. About eight flights per day used the Pentagon helipad, which is limited to only DoD-directed exercises and three- and four-star executive –and civilian equivalent — travel.

This new report finds that the flights currently occurring at levels “considered acceptable” based on Army, DoD, and federal land use compatibility recommendations. It did acknowledge, however, that studies find helicopter noise is “much more variable and complex” than airplane noise.

The DoD pledged to take four broad steps toward possibly reducing noise.

One notable recommendation is that DoD will discuss the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Currently, FAA assigns helicopters to lower airspace because the airways are dominated by large commercial passenger jets, namely those landing at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport.

“The airspace within the [National Capital Region] is one of the busiest and most restrictive in the United States,” the report said. “The military helicopters that operate within the NCR are sharing airspace with three major commercial airports and are required to follow the helicopter routes and altitude restrictions established and enforced by FAA.”

And a majority of helicopter operators have expressed concern that changing the altitude could reduce safety for all aircrafts, saying that “establishing quiet or restricted zones would negatively affect their mission.”

Other recommendations include continuing to track and analyze helicopter noise complaints to identify potential trends as well as adjustments that the Army Aviation Brigade, 1st Helicopter Squadron and Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron 1 could make.

DoD said it will also work with FAA to obtain flight track data trends to look at compliance with local flight procedures and helicopter routes, and address any potential corrective actions. Finally, DoD said it will work with the Army and Marine Corps to ensure “fly neighborly” and “fly friendly” procedures are being reinforced and examine the procedures currently being used.

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The average square footage of an Arlington apartment appears to be increasing, according to a new study from RENTCafé.

Among 92 cities and jurisdictions, more than one-third are building bigger apartments now than they did five to 10 years ago, according to the website, which follows trends in the apartment market. And Arlington County had the seventh largest jump in unit size between 2016 and 2021.

Compared to units completed between 2016-2020, in the second half of the last decade, those under construction as of May  2021 are 91 square feet bigger — “enough for a cozy home office or relaxation area,” RENTCafé spokeswoman Michelle Cretu said.

New projects in Arlington are embracing “renters’ living preferences following the pandemic,” she said. “After years of shrinking apartments, current projects… are on the track to give renters more square footage to better fit their new lifestyle.”

Localities that were building smaller apartments, and are now building larger (via RENTCafé)

And the extra size is being added across one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

“The share of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments under construction is similar to the overall stock and is not driving the increase in average size,” Cretu said.

RENTCafé’s data show apartment unit size increasing from 2016-20 to May 2021

Out of the 664 units that were under construction as of May, 61% are one-bedroom apartments, RENTCafé’s analysis found. Arlington County historically has had a high share of one-bedroom apartments, Cretu said, which comprised 54% of units delivered between 2011-2015 and 63% of those delivered in the second half of the decade.

Representatives from developers JBG Smith and Penzance, which are active in Arlington, were lukewarm on attributing this uptick to the pandemic.

“The renter profile in Arlington has changed over the past several years,” said John Kusturiss, Senior Vice President of Development for Penzance. “Apartments are no longer just for recent college grads; folks of all ages want to have the accessibility of an urban area to walk to great shops, restaurants, and more.”

JBG Executive Vice President of Development Bryan Moll said the people seeking larger rental units fall into a few categories: first-time renters seeking units that fit roommates, those constrained by “the limited supply of affordable, for-sale housing,” and new or growing families.

Moll did say JBG Smith is responding to the pandemic-era need for home offices and individual and co-working spaces. He added, however, that the company has found renters are willing to settle for smaller units to be nearer to amenity-rich corridors in the area.

“Submarkets like National Landing continue to evolve into even more vibrant destinations with enhanced neighborhood amenities and new employment opportunities,” he said. “As a result, more renters will want to live there, even if that means living in slightly smaller units. We’ve seen this trend play out over the past decade in most of the amenity-dense areas across D.C.”

RENTCafé observed shrinking apartments across the river in D.C., meanwhile. Current units are 23 square feet smaller than they were five years ago, and new rentals will be 721 sq. ft. on average — among the smallest units under construction, Cretu said.

Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development — which tracks development trends in Arlington — last reported apartment size trends, which are calculated by dividing the building’s total square footage by the number of units, in 2018. That report show more modest fluctuations compared to RENTCafé’s findings.

“Based on the most recent findings (2018), the average square feet per unit has not shown a significant increase,” a CPHD spokeswoman said.

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Wearing a clock as a necklace for turning papers in late. Carrying a hose stuffed with sand and rocks for losing a flag.

These were two “alternative learning opportunities” or ALOs that one instructor in Arlington County Fire Department’s Training Academy allegedly prescribed to former firefighter EMT recruit Brett Ahern in one week for mistakes that he made.

Two months ago, Ahern cited these ALOs as examples of how he was unfairly targeted by the instructor and set up to fail, according to an exclusive report by Hagerstown TV station WDVM. He told the news outlet that the way he was treated during the academy last year made him anxious and unfocused. Even after an investigation, he said the hazing continued until he failed two tests and was dismissed.

A 54-page Human Resources report, shared with ARLnow, indicates that the fire department investigated Ahern’s claims last summer. The heavily redacted report identified firefighters and recruits who observed that Ahern specifically was yelled at, taunted and tasked with ALOs that no other recruit was given. It also found that five other recruits were occasional targets of the same instructor.

ACFD told WDVM and repeated to ARLnow that it is committed to making changes to each subsequent class recruit class. At least one change has been made since Ahern — part of the 78th class — failed out of the academy. Recruit Class 79, which graduated in May, did not have alternative learning opportunities, according to Lt. Nate Hiner, the spokesman for the department.

“The Arlington County Fire Department makes improvements each Recruit Class, building off lessons learned from previous classes,” Hiner said. “The ACFD has discontinued the use of ALO’s, ensuring that any supplemental training focuses solely on refinement and reinforcement of proper skills, techniques, and procedures that recruits will utilize as firefighter/EMT’s protecting the community.”

Previously, Fire Chief David Povlitz told WDVM that if a recruit made a mistake during training, an instructor would make time for these so-called ALOs, which are “meant to reinforce learning and they have to be approved by high-ranking officers.”

But according to the newly-shared HR report, multiple witnesses who were interviewed during the investigation said that the two ALOs that Ahern was given during his “Hell Week” — wearing the clock and carrying the heavy hose — were beyond the pale.

One recruit said the hose in particular — punishment for losing a flag, or guidon — was “straight up bullying.”

“When [recruits] lost the guidon before, they were given the ‘ghetto guidon,'” one interviewee said, “but when Recruit Ahern lost the guidon, he was given” this heavy hose, which the speaker called “an impossible guidon.”

The report said other interviewees “opined that this ALO, although warranted, was orchestrated by [the instructor] to ‘break’ Recruit Ahern.” They added that “the ALO would have been handled differently had it been assigned to another recruit.”

Aside from these ALOs, multiple independent witnesses said the instructor was vocal about his belief that Ahern did not deserve to be in the academy, and that he would yell — or at least would raise his voice — at Ahern in front of his peers.

Five witnesses confirmed that the instructor had Ahern accompany another recruit who asked to retrieve his sunglasses. On their return, the instructor said the recruits were two minutes late and the class had covered “a lot of material.” He told the recruits that he hoped their next test would cover this missed information, adding, “I hope you f— fail it!”

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