Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Local Man Killed in Crash Near Shirlington — “At approximately 7:44 p.m. on July 3, 2020, police were dispatched to the area of Walter Reed Drive and S. Wakefield Street for multiple reports of a crash with injury. The preliminary investigation indicates that the motorcyclist was traveling southbound on Walter Reed Drive at a high rate of speed when he lost control, struck a pole and was thrown from the vehicle.” [Arlington County]

Yorktown Grad Entering Third NFL Season — “The upcoming NFL season, if it is played, will be M.J. Stewart’s third, and the Yorktown High School graduate is more than eager for this month’s training camp then the 2020-21 season to start. ‘I just want to get to training camp,’ said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound defensive back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.” [InsideNova]

Ethiopian Community Facing Dual Challenges — “The Supreme Court on June 25 okayed the Trump administration’s policy of limiting the number of asylum seekers in the country… Most likely to feel the impact locally is the Arlington-based Ethiopian Community Development Council Inc., the refugee-support and State Department-authorized transition agency with offices just off Columbia Pike… this sub-sector of Arlington’s diverse population is among those hit hardest by the coronavirus lockdown.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Why Galaxy Hut is Not Opening Indoors — Updated at 9:10 a.m. — “We just decided ultimately that the questions are too many. Too many questions about how safe it is to be out and dine. And we didn’t feel like with our small size in particular that we would be a good candidate for trying this out. We didn’t want to take the risk.” [WJLA]

River Rescue Blocks Chain Bridge — From Sunday afternoon: “River incident the Potomac River vicinity Fletchers boathouse. Injured 18 year old who fell approximately 20 feet from rocks. Will require patient to be lowered to shoreline and transported by boat.” [Twitter]

Wardian Completes Delaware Run — “Ultrarunner Mike Wardian ran the length of the state of Delaware, starting the 130-mile (209-kilometre) route on July 2 and finishing 26 hours later. He began the run in the afternoon, just north of Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city, near the state border with Pennsylvania. He ran in [93 degree] weather straight through the night and next morning, and 26 hours, 19 minutes and 43 seconds later, he crossed the state’s southern border and ran into Maryland.” [Canadian Trail Running]

Photo courtesy Eliana Carreño

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Arlington has been removing some parking spaces to facilitate the expansion of outdoor dining in two local neighborhoods.

The County Board approved a process for restaurants to apply for expanded, temporary outdoor dining areas in late May. Since then, county crews have blocked off street parking spots in six places to allow pedestrians to better get around the sidewalk cafes.

According to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, the repurposed parking spaces are located in the Shirlington and Clarendon areas, including:

  • Washington Boulevard between Wilson Blvd and 13th St N, about 2 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Cleveland St and N Danville St, about 4 parking spaces
  • Wilson Blvd between N Hudson St and N Irving St, about 6 parking spaces
  • S Campbell St between S Arlington Mill Dr and S Quincy St, all on-street parking spaces
  • West side of S Randolph St immediately south of S Campbell St, a few spaces (exact number not available at this time)
  • West side of S Quincy St immediately south of S Campbell St (exact number not available at this time)

Crews were seen blocking off the Shirlington parkings areas Monday morning.

DES spokesman Peter Golkin said additional parking spaces may be repurposed as restaurants apply for Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs), though no additional, specific locations are currently planned.

“We are creating pedestrian space around outdoor seating as restaurants apply for outdoor seating,” Golkin said.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Signature Theatre’s long-time leader is stepping down following allegations of sexual harassment.

The Shirlington-based theater said in a statement today that co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is retiring at the end of the month. No mention was made of the allegations.

Over the weekend, actor Thomas Keegan resurfaced his assertion that Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a local 2018 award show. Signature said in a subsequent statement that the allegations were investigated and found to be “without merit.”

Keegan, however, said he was personally aware of at least one other person sexually assaulted by Schaeffer. Yesterday he posted screenshots of other accusers who reached out to him.

In a statement posted online at 2 p.m. today, Keegan said Schaeffer should have stepped down years ago.

Eric Schaeffer’s resignation is more than a decade overdue. As the #blacklivesmatter movement is proving, abuse of power is systemic, insidious, corrosive, and institutional. I believe that silence is complicity. The entire hierarchy of Signature Theatre, to include the board and people I once called friends and colleagues, has aided and abetted a sacrilegious abuse of power, criminal activity, and depraved behavior, in a theatre that good, hardworking artists call home. They have betrayed their patrons, their employees, and the artistic community. They should be removed and replaced by the next generation of theatre makers, honestly and transparently committed to creating safe spaces and pursuing our most pressing matter: racial justice and equity.

Signature, which is reported to be in good financial shape despite the pandemic and its money troubles six years ago, says it will now embark on a search for a new Artistic Director, with a focus on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates.

The full announcement from Schaeffer and Signature Theatre is below.

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Update on 6/24/20 — Schaeffer just announced his retirement.

Earlier: Shirlington-based Signature Theatre says newly-revealed sexual assault allegations against its leader “are false, misleading and without merit.”

Actor Thomas Keegan made the allegations public via social media on Sunday, after challenging Signature on a statement expressing a commitment to social justice. He says Signature co-founder and artistic director Eric Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals during a local theater awards show in 2018.

Yesterday, the theater — which in 2014 received a $5 million loan and rent abatement on its Shirlington location from Arlington County — responded with a statement (below) saying the allegations were investigated and found to be “not credible.”

Signature Theatre strives to play a positive role in our society and part of doing this is listening to our community in an open and fair manner. Living up to these values means taking all allegations of inappropriate or illegal actions seriously and then acting on those complaints according to robust and fair policies.

In May of 2018, Signature Theatre received a complaint concerning Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer. The Signature Board took the complaint seriously and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a third-party inquiry and Mr. Schaeffer was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the inquiry.

The third-party investigation was independent and involved numerous interviews with the complainant, Eric Schaeffer, current and former Signature staff along with attendees at the event where the incident allegedly took place. The investigator also did a comprehensive review of pertinent records including extensive email records and text messages.

The investigation concluded that the allegations were not credible. Signature’s Board of Directors unanimously accepted the investigation’s conclusions and Mr. Schaeffer was returned to his duties. The matter was then closed and no charges or actions against Signature or Mr. Schaeffer were ever filed. Recent allegations about this incident asserted on social media are false, misleading and without merit as evidenced by the independent investigation.

Keegan asserted that “at least one other actor I know was assaulted by Eric.” He also said that he told the Washington Post about what happened the day after the alleged assault; a search today found no articles on the topic.

Keegan’s full Twitter thread, with his account of what happened, is below.

Read More

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A 19-year-old South Carolina man was arrested after a carjacking near Shirlington last night.

The carjacking happened around 8:30 p.m., at a gas station at the corner of S. Four Mile Run Drive and S. Walter Reed Drive. The suspect drove the victim’s car into Fairfax County but a short time later drove back into Arlington, leading to an attempted traffic stop from which the suspect fled, according to ACPD.

Police say the suspect parked the car a few blocks from where it was stolen and took off on foot. He was later located by officers and taken into custody.

More from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

CARJACKING, 2020-06220165, S. Four Mile Run Drive at S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:27 p.m. on June 22, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was pumping gas when the male suspect allegedly approached her and demanded the vehicle. The suspect stole the car and fled into Fairfax County. A lookout for the vehicle was broadcast to area law enforcement. At approximately 9:03 p.m., officers were alerted that the vehicle was re-entering the County on Columbia Pike. The vehicle was initially located in the area of 5300 block of Columbia Pike and an officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop, however, the driver fled at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was later located parked and unoccupied in the 2600 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive. A perimeter was established, and following a search by officers and K9s, the suspect was located and taken into custody. Verdell Floyd, 19, of Columbia, S.C. was arrested and charged with Carjacking and Eluding. He was held on no bond.

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Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It was a seemingly uncontroversial item on the County Board agenda: shifting a temporary parking lot for television station WETA down the block, in order to allow renovations to Jennie Dean Park to proceed.

But the proposal, which was approved unanimously last night after a detailed discussion, ended up raising questions about race, equity and public engagement. It was the subject of a recent op-ed published by the Sun Gazette entitled “Arlington government again fails Green Valley,” accusing the county of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of the historically Black neighborhood.

“While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans,” wrote Green Valley Civic Association members Robin Stombler and Portia Clark. “A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.”

The discussion at Tuesday’s County Board meeting did not include much talk of race or equity. Instead, it mostly addressed the practical matter at hand: about 10 employees of the nearby WETA facility, which produces the PBS NewsHour, were parking on a temporary, county-owned lot that is set to become a playground in Phase 1 of the Jennie Dean expansion. To allow construction to move forward, they would be moved to a lot a short distance away on S. Four Mile Run Drive, between a small commercial building and the Weenie Beenie.

Demolition of the building that will become the new WETA lot started last week, a county staffer said. Heavy construction on the park is set to begin in late summer or early fall. Without use of the current temporary lot, “we would not be able to build out the project as designed,” the staffer said.

The Green Valley neighborhood didn’t want the current WETA lot and doesn’t want the new lot, said Stombler. And notification of the change — it was advertised in the lightly-read Washington Times newspaper, as are Arlington’s other public notices — was inadequate.

“Publishing notices in the Washington Times and considering it an outreach method is very telling of how the county regards Green Valley and community input in general,” Stomber said. We deserve much better… The county’s engagement processes must be improved.”

The remarks echo complaints from Green Valley residents two years about the lengthy design process for Jennie Dean Park.

“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” one resident told ARLnow at the time.

“I feel like we’re second class citizens,” said a resident during the public comment period last night.

Nonetheless, under an agreement approved by the Board, WETA will be granted temporary use of the newly-created lot for a year, after which its use can be reevaluated. Eventually, the lot will become part of park, in the second phase of its expansion. And the county will get something in return for the temporary use.

“The compensation to the County for the Amended and Restated License Agreement will be in the form of 12, 15-second promotional underwriting credit spots on WETA’s radio programs during each calendar year,” a staff report says.

Stombler and Clark — who support the expansion of WETA’s Shirlington headquarters that will see its aging NewsHour studio eventually demolished — said that the radio ads will not do anything to benefit the neighborhood.

“The county government must reassess its engagement processes to correct these actions, and must be held accountable for practices that marginalize segments of our community,” the op-ed said. “More innovative and compassionate solutions should be encouraged. Local hiring, paid internships, job fair hosting and community clean-ups beat 12 ego-boosting radio spots any day.”

Photos (1-2) via Arlington County, (3-4) via Google Maps

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(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A North Carolina man was killed in a crash in the Shirlington area late last night.

The single-vehicle crash happened on the Shirlington Circle ramp above I-395, just before midnight, and drew a large emergency response. Virginia State Police say a 55-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the crash, and a female passenger was taken to a local trauma center with non-life-threatening injuries.

“At 11:48 p.m. Sunday night, Virginia State Police Trooper M.I. Campbell responded to a single-vehicle crash in Arlington County,” VSP said in a statement Monday afternoon. “A Lexus sedan struck a jersey wall on the Shirlington Circle ramp to the northbound I-395 Express Lanes. The 55-year-old male driver from North Carolina was transported to Inova Alexandria Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.”

The crash remains under investigation, a state police spokeswoman said.

VDOT is planning safety improvements to the Shirlington Circle interchange.

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A vehicle is on fire on northbound I-395 near Shirlington.

A portion of the highway is expected to be shut down temporarily while firefighters battle the blaze.

The car is on the righthand shoulder, fully engulfed in flames.

Update at 3:35 p.m. — The fire is out and lanes are being reopened.

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About 200 people participated in a peaceful protest against police brutality that marched from Shirlington to Ballston Sunday afternoon.

The event was organized in memory of George Floyd, whose killing at the hands of police in Minneapolis prompted nationwide protests and murder charges against one of the officers.

The protest started in front of the Shirlington Branch Library, as participants knelt “for George Floyd and the many other black lives we have lost at the hands of brutal police and others.” The demonstrators then marched to Ballston, holding signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter.” Once they reached Ballston’s Welburn Square, there were more remembrances, speeches and kneeling.

The protest remained nonviolent, in contrast to the peaceful protests that devolved into confrontation and destruction at night, in D.C. and elsewhere. It was supported by the Arlington County Police Department; officers blocked streets and handed out water and snacks to the marches.

“We are happy to share that the Arlington Police Department has reached out to us in full support of today’s protest,” the protest’s event page said. “They made a point of sharing that they do not align themselves with the police brutalities in other regions.”

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As Arlington prepares to move into Phase 1 of the reopening, some local barbershops and salons are ready to reopen with a different look.

Illusions of Shirlington (4033 Campbell Avenue) is planning to reopen this Friday, though its owner acknowledged that the new restrictions will make her work and that of her staff a bit harder.

“I’m very excited about reopening,” said Irma Wheeler, owner of Illusions of Shirlington. “We’ve been very anxious and have been getting ready since the beginning of the shutdown.”

Illusions has been open for 27 years, but when it reopens on Friday, Wheeler said things will be a little different. There are plexiglass shields at the front desk to separate customers and employees. No more than 10 people, including staff, will be allowed in the salon at any given time. Each appointment will be longer to allow plenty of time to clean stations and tools between clients. Wheeler said that will mean longer hours for her and her staff.

“It’s been difficult to find supplies, even disinfectant,” Wheeler said. “We have face shields and masks, and we’re taking the temperatures of clients and staff. We’re trying to take every precaution… it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be ready.”

Wheeler said masks, gloves and face shields will be work by all the staff, while clients must wear a mask. (Face shields will be provided at the shampoo station to keep the masks dry.)

Like other Arlington businesses, Wheeler said Illusions of Shirlington struggled with the closure but was able to maintain connections with their clientele through online tutorials on how they could trim their hair at home.

“We’ve done a lot of social media,” Wheeler said. “We’ve had requests from clientele, so we sent out instructions on how to do things themselves. Stylists were available to help people through it, sometimes explaining things outside in person. We were able to keep in touch.”

Meanwhile, in Ballston, the Bearded Goat Barber at Ballston Exchange (4201 Wilson Blvd) is preparing to reopen for haircuts and hair washes but without the signature beard trimming.

Like Illusions, Bearded Goat Barber said appointments will be prolonged to allow for proper disinfection and sanitation between clients. The shop will operate at 50% capacity, with every other chair being empty to allow for social distancing.

Further east, Clarendon salon Urban Halo (2900 Clarendon Blvd) had signs on the front door saying it too will be reopening on Friday.

Photo via Illusions of Shirlington/Instagram

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