Arlington, VA

(Updated at 11 a.m.) County crews replaced the first “Jefferson Davis Highway” sign this morning as officials work to complete Route 1’s renaming to “Richmond Highway” in Arlington.

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Del. Mark Levine stomped on the sign honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis, folding it up as crews placed the first new “Richmond” signs in Crystal City this morning at the 23rd Street S. intersection.

“It felt great,” Dorsey said afterward. “We are at a point now where we don’t have to have these monumental signs hanging over the streets of Arlington.”

Arlington’s lawmakers have pushed for the change for several years, but were stymied by conservative representatives in Richmond. The county renewed its efforts last year in the wake of Amazon’s arrival.

Earlier this year, at the prompting of Del. Mark Levine, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion that local leaders could sidestep Richmond entirely. The opinion clarified that the Arlington County Board had the authority to change the name on its own.

In an statement Wednesday, Levine wrote that today’s event was important because the General Assembly named the highway after Davis long after the Civil War — in 1922 — and Davis himself few connections with Virginia.

“The purpose instead was to terrorize Virginia’s black population into submitting to unconstitutional second-class legal status under Virginia law,” said Levine. “In 1922, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the KKK were at their peak power, while poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses kept the descendants of the courageous African-Americans who fought Davis and died for the Union from exercising their constitutional right to vote.”

“While it is necessary for us to honestly discuss and interpret Virginia’s history, I feel strongly that commemorating the president of the Confederacy through the name for a major thoroughfare is not appropriate,” Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board Secretary said after approving the name change in May.

The highway was named after Davis at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group which sponsored confederate monuments across the south in the 20th century, including a now-removed plaque in Bluemont Park. In 1946, the group also commissioned a stone marker along the highway bearing Jefferson Davis’ name, which county or state transportation officials are not quite sure what to do about.

“I’m proud of Mark Levine for getting this through,” said Freddie Lutz, owner of longtime Crystal City LGBT bar Freddie’s Beach Bar, who attended this morning’s ceremony. “It’s a great, progressive move. I’m all about celebrating diversity.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Levine said. “It’s a sign of oppression. It was wrong to put it up [then] and it was wrong today.”

Levine added that having himself and Dorsey personally take the Jefferson Davis sign down “wasn’t planned that way, but it’s wonderful symbolic justice.”

Officials previously estimated that total cost of changing Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway in Arlington would be around $17,000, and that work would continue through October.

Alexandria voted to nix the name last year. Earlier this year Google Maps began display the new name on the Arlington portion of the highway.

“We are thrilled about the overdue name change,” Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, told ARLnow. “It’s much more consistent with our values — and provides a progressive and inclusive environment to live and work.”

Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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Drivers at the busy Washington and Wilson Blvd intersection are continuing to make the left turn onto Wilson, despite that action having been made illegal in March.

Current plans call for the tricky intersection to be overhauled and made easier to navigate for both pedestrians and drivers. That includes eliminating the left turn that has caused frequent backups.

At least two signs at the intersection indicate that left turns are not allowed, even though the street does feature a left-turn lane that serves seemingly no purpose as the road funnels into one lane at the other side of the intersection.

County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow that the violations are not surprising when a change is made to an intersection like that.

“It takes time to change driver behavior, especially when the change is to a long-standing travel pattern,” said Balliet. “We always start with education, finding ways to inform drivers about the change and their options. Our efforts so far included a blog post and video shared multiple times through the county’s email listservs, social media posts from our department as well as Arlington County Police, an electronic message board located near the intersection, and the new signage we’ve installed noting the restriction.”

Navigation apps Waze and Google Maps no longer direct drivers to make the turn, which Balliet said was partially the result of communication from county staff.

Balliet said he believes as construction continues on the intersection, known at Clarendon Circle, the confusion should clear up.

“The no-left-turn will become clearer to drivers as construction for the Clarendon Circle project moves forward and the street is reconfigured to remove the left turn pocket,” said Balliet.

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Drivers heading northbound on I-395 should expect lane closures and periodic traffic stoppages tonight near Pentagon City.

The traffic impacts are due to a planned overhead sign installation.

By midnight, only one northbound lane is expected to remain open, causing delays for anyone heading in the direction of D.C.

More from a VDOT press release:

Motorists are advised that I-395 North will be reduced to one lane during overnight hours on Tuesday, April 16 near S. Washington Boulevard. Periodic traffic stoppages of up to 30 minutes will occur between Midnight and 4 a.m. These closures are needed for crews to install an overhead sign structure as part of the I-395 Express Lanes Northern Extension Project. Work is weather dependent.

Details are:

  • Beginning at 10 p.m. tonight, a single lane will close on I-395 North
  • Additional lanes will close at 11 p.m.
  • Intermittent traffic stoppages on the northbound lanes are scheduled to occur after Midnight
  • All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m.
  • As construction progresses this spring and summer, motorists should expect single lane closures on the I-395 HOV lanes weekdays between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and closures on the general purpose lanes from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The 395 Express Lanes, which involve extending the current express lanes eight miles north to the D.C. line, are scheduled to open this fall. Learn how Express Lanes work and how to get an E-ZPass at www.ExpressLanes.com.

The 395 Express Lanes are a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Transurban. See more details on the project and related lane closures.

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Morning Notes

Woman Injured When Scooter’s Brakes Fail — “An Arlington, Virginia, woman says she had to jump off of an electric scooter moving 15 mph to avoid oncoming traffic because the rented scooter’s brakes weren’t working.” [NBC 4]

Could Goody’s Challenge Sign Rules? — Goody’s restaurant in Clarendon painted over its outdoor mural after running afoul of Arlington’s sign ordinance, but one attorney says a 2015 Supreme Court ruling may point to an avenue to challenge the county’s regulations. [Reason]

Refugees Get Car from Arlington Diocese — “A Catholic family fleeing religious persecution in their native Pakistan [received] a car Monday in Arlington.” [WUSA 9]

Tornado Drill Today in Va. — Updated at 8:55 a.m. — Virginia is conducting its annual statewide tornado drill today at 9:45 a.m. [Virginia DEM, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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The outside of Goody’s is now sporting eye-watering lime green and red paint after county zoning regulations forced the pizzeria to cover its colorful, culinary mural.

Tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, cheese, slices of pizza, and gyros adorned the creme-colored walls along with an Italian flag after Goody’s commissioned the mural from a local artist.

The county’s planning department warned the Clarendon staple that Arlington’s zoning ordinance requires permits for artwork that “relates to the advertisement of a business and its services” and that without a permit they’d be forced to paint over the mural.

Goody’s is owned by Glenda Alvarez who took the reins from Vanessa Reisis last spring and was unavailable for comment Friday morning.

Alvarez’s husband Danny Sabouni owns Arlington Watch Works next door and told ARLnow that Alvarez had to repaint Goody’s yesterday (Thursday) but she was not fined.

“We can put bicycles or cars outside, whatever else. But we cannot put posters or signs advertising what we sell,” Sabouni said of the zoning ordinance’s requirements. “It’s pathetic.”

A spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development did not respond in time for publication.

Sabouni says Alvarez is considering commissioning a new mural for the eatery, but it’s a difficult process because the language of the ordinance doesn’t clearly distinguish between what’s a sign and what’s art.

“It’s so vague that nobody can understand it,” he said.

Previously, Alvarez said she painted the building to make it more “attractive” to customers, adding “We just wanted to get a little more attention from people walking by.”

County inspectors famously cracked down on artwork judged to be advertising in 2010 when Wag More Dogs on S. Four Mile Run Drive included dogs in their mural.

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Columbia Pike is now set to see dozens of new banners adorn its street poles, as part of a bid to tie communities along the highway together.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization announced that it’d begin installing 70 of the new banners on a four-mile section of the Pike last week.

The County Board signed off on the new pennants this summer, with some set to proclaim the area as “Arlington’s Oldest and Newest Main Street” and others advertising local events like movie nights and farmers markets.

“This four-mile stretch of ‘The Pike’ represents Arlington’s most diverse community with nearly 72,000 residents, roughly 38 percent of Arlington County’s entire population,” CPRO Board President John Snyder wrote in a statement. “The Pike represents an opportunity for place-making, for celebration and for economic development. And Columbia Pike’s 10 neighborhoods are also immediately adjacent to Crystal City, the newly announced headquarters for Amazon.”

The first banners will hang on poles running from the Pentagon City Sheraton (900 S. Orme Street) to the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

Then, as work wraps up on utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements along the highway in the coming months, CPRO will add more banners on the road between S. Dinwiddie and S. Jefferson streets. That will include the area surrounding the “Centro Arlington” development taking the place of the old Food Star grocery store near the Pike’s intersection with S. George Mason Drive.

CPRO is paying for the banners with help of grants from the county, the Washington Forrest Foundation and the Virginia Main Street Affiliate Program, according to a news release.

The nonprofit first started developing the banner program in tandem with the County Board last year in order to “visually unify” the area and “highlight the major development areas where ongoing Pike events take place,” the release added.

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The Clarendon War Memorial, which honors Arlington residents killed in major armed conflicts, is getting new signs to explain its significance and context.

The memorial, located on the opposite end of Clarendon Central Park from the Metro station entrance, has generated some controversy in recent years due to it separately listing the two “colored” troops from Arlington killed during World War I.

On Saturday the Arlington County Board voted to accept a $2,000 grant from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to fund new interpretive signs.

“The original 1931 plaque on the memorial lists the names of the 13 Arlington servicemen who died in WWI, and segregates the names by race,” said county spokeswoman Gina Wimpey. “A main goal of this interpretive project will be to provide historic context for the segregation of the names, as well as information about Arlington during each of the time periods and conflicts represented on the memorial.”

The new interpretive signs will ring the memorial. The first is expected to be unveiled later this fall.

“The proposed interpretive panels related to the Clarendon War Memorial will be installed in phases, with the first panel focusing on the history of the memorial itself,” said Wimpey. “That panel is planned (pending the final fabrication and installation schedule) to be unveiled at a Centennial Armistice Day event to be held Nov. 11 and hosted by the American Legion, in partnership with Arlington County and Arlington’s WWI Commemoration Task Force.”

Some have called for the original plaque to be removed and replaced due to its segregation of African American service members, though task force member (and former county treasurer) Frank O’Leary argued on the 26 Square Miles podcast earlier this year that it would have been considered progressive at the time for the way it was designed.

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For the last few days, an electronic sign meant to inform drivers about some upcoming roadwork in the Shirlington area has displayed a different message instead: “Ligma.”

A prankster seems to have reprogrammed the sign, located near the intersection of S. Walter Reed Drive and S. Arlington Mill Drive, sometime in the past few days. A tipster told ARLnow the sign’s been changed since at least this past Wednesday (Aug. 22).

The word itself seems to be a reference to a popular meme among fans of the video game Fortnite — its origins are perhaps best not explained on a family website.

When informed of the vandalized sign by ARLnow, county transportation spokeswoman Jessica Baxter explained that it belongs to a contractor working on improvements to S. Walter Reed Drive as part of a bid to “alert the public of the start of upcoming work.”

“The sign is supposed to reference the upcoming construction and date range of work,” Baxter said. “We’ve alerted our contractor to correct the sign as soon as possible.”

Construction on that work is supposed to start in early September, and last for close to a year after that.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Ridge Power OutageUpdated at 9:25 a.m. — A few dozen Dominion customers are without power in the Arlington Ridge and Pentagon City neighborhoods this morning due to an outage cased by “power line damage,” according to the utility’s website. Electricity is expected to be restored by 1 p.m. A tipster says the the Riverhouse apartments and some of the Pentagon Row shops were affected by the outage. Meanwhile, per Arlington County: “Arlington Ridge Road access from Washington Blvd as well as SB Arlington Ridge at S. Lynn Street will be closed for approximately 2 hours while Dominion Power repairs a damaged power line.” [Twitter]

APS Extended Day Website Survey — Arlington Public Schools is conducting a survey regarding its Extended Day management system. APS is considering a new system that would include an interactive parent portal, online registration, access to family accounts, and a database for family and staff information. [Arlington Public Schools, Google Forms]

Tax Delinquency Rate May Reach Record Low — “Arlington’s treasurer is optimistic that the county’s tax-delinquency rate could fall to another record low when it is reported later this summer… The delinquency rate to beat is the 0.226 percent reported last year, representing the amount of real-estate and personal-property taxes unpaid out of the roughly $800 million that flows through the treasurer’s office each year.” [InsideNova]

New Kettler Iceplex Sign — There’s a new sign on the parking garage in front of Kettler Capitals Iceplex: “Ballston / Home of the Washington Capitals / 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.” [Twitter]

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Columbia Pike is getting some new branding, in the form of banners that will be placed on light poles along the Pike.

As expected, the County Board approved the banners — which proclaim the Pike to be “Arlington’s Oldest and Newest Main Street” — at its meeting on Saturday.

The initial 48 banners will cost just over $11,000 to install and will be paid for and maintained by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

“The County and our partner, CPRO, continue to make steady progress toward realizing the community’s vision of a Columbia Pike that feels more like a Main Street,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “These colorful banners will enhance the vibrancy we already see along the Pike, where years of community planning and public and private engagement have created a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape and more welcoming public spaces.”

The banners will run the length of the Pike in Arlington — from Foxcroft Heights to the western county line

Arlington County’s press release about the banner approval is below.

The Board voted unanimously to authorize the installation of non-commercial banners in the public right-of-way along the entire length of Columbia Pike, from Foxcroft Heights to the western County line. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) will place the seasonal banners on street light poles on behalf of the County.

CPRO will fund the phased installation and maintenance of these banners. In the first phase, 48 banners will be installed at key major intersections along the Pike. Subsequent phases will be completed as funding becomes available. Total cost to install the initial 48 banners is $11,280. It will cost $2,000 to maintain the banners the first year (increasing 5 percent annually). […]

Background

In 2017, the Board doubled annual funding for CPRO, bringing its total commitment to $400,000. The Board, at the time, said it wanted to see CPRO use some of those funds to develop new place-making activities – specifically a cleaning program and a banner program. The Washington Forrest Foundation has also contributed $10,000 to CPRO for the program for this purpose. This is the second time the Board has permitted CPRO to install decorative banners within the public right-of-way.

About CPRO

CPRO’s mission is to create a safer, cleaner, more vibrant community from the Pentagon to the County line, a corridor which geographically makes up 17 percent of Arlington, and to champion and connect businesses and community along Columbia Pike. […]

To learn more about the County’s efforts to transform Columbia Pike into a more transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly Main Street with great public spaces and a mix of vibrant retail, restaurants, housing and offices, visit the County website.

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Update on June 7 at 10:30 a.m. — Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization officials say they’ve struck a deal with the Capitals to resolve this dispute.

Each group will now post a banner above Columbia Pike, one facing east and one facing west. They believe a contractor for the Caps inadvertently disposed of the old CPRO banner, and the team plans to replace it, at no cost to CPRO.

“We are happy that CPRO and the Washington Capitals were able to come together and make things work for both organizations,” John Snyder, president of the CPRO board, wrote in a statement. “The Pike community loves the Caps. We invite the Caps family and fans to join us at the Blues Festival on June 16th — and hope they bring along the Cup!”

Earlier: A new banner stretching over Columbia Pike proclaiming that “Arlington is All Caps” might not seem out of place, given the D.C. region’s hockey obsession these days — but the arrival of the pennant has ruffled a few feathers, all the same.

As recently as this past weekend, a banner hung from the same streetlight poles in front of the Audi dealership at 3200 Columbia Pike advertising the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, set for next Saturday (June 16). The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, known as CPRO, puts on the event and arranged to have that banner placed in such a prominent spot.

CPRO leaders say they were quite confused to see their pennant disappear in favor of the Washington Capitals-themed decoration, as they believed they had a permit from Arlington officials to leave the banner up a bit longer. But the Capitals themselves also believe they have the county’s permission to post the pennant, leaving CPRO at a loss.

“It could’ve been a snafu, we don’t know,” Cecilia Cassidy, CPRO’s executive director, told ARLnow. “It could’ve just been Stanley Cup fever.”

Megan Eichenberg, the Caps’ manager of communications and publicity, insists that the team has a county permit to post the banner. She declined to answer questions about when the Caps applied for and received that authorization, or what became of the banner, deferring comment to the county.

A spokeswoman for the county’s zoning office didn’t immediately have answers on the matter, saying only that staffers are looking into it. Cassidy added that CPRO has been in contact with the county about the issue, but has yet to hear more details.

Michael Garcia, an insurance agent with an office on the Pike and a CPRO board member, says the group’s chief concern isn’t in seeing the Caps banner come down, especially with the team on the cusp of its first-ever Stanley Cup. He is, however, interested in learning what became of the $1,800 banner.

“Has it been trashed? Or will it be returned to CPRO?” Garcia wrote in an email to ARLnow. “Who will reimburse CPRO for the $1,800 banner and cost of re-installation? And who authorized this without notifying CPRO in the first place?”

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