Heavy Traffic, Metro Issues — Commuters were welcomed back to work and back to school with a soaking rush hour rain, heavy traffic and delays on Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Are We In a Restaurant Bubble? — At last count, more restaurants closed than opened in Arlington last year. There’s talk that certain parts of Arlington’s restaurant scene — sit-down restaurants in particular — are oversaturated. While there’s always room for top-notch restaurants, Arlington’s restaurant woes are seemingly consistent with the assertion that we are in a national restaurant bubble. [Thrillist]
Take Our 2017 Reader Survey — Once a year, we give our readers a chance to weigh in on how we’re doing and what we might do to improve. We also over-share potential changes that we’re considering (some more seriously than others). Now is your chance to share your insights and opinions about ARLnow. [SurveyMonkey]
Big Tree Down on Washington Blvd — A large tree fell across power lines on Washington Blvd just south of Virginia Hospital Center during Saturday night and Sunday morning’s windstorm. Washington Blvd was closed between George Mason Drive and N. Harrison Street for much of the day Sunday while Dominion crews repaired the lines. [Twitter, Twitter]
Photos: DCA Airport Strike — DCist has photos from last week’s 24 hour strike of contract service workers at Reagan National Airport. [DCist]
Arlington Signs on to Amicus Brief — Arlington was among more than 50 counties and cities that signed on to an amicus brief in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon emissions from power plants. [Columbia Law School, Twitter]
Capital Improvement Plan Survey — Through April 22, Arlington County is conducting an online survey of residents that will help guide decision-making during the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan process. The CIP helps to plan “major investments in parks, libraries, transportation, community centers, facilities, technology, water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure — along with other areas that support the community.” [Arlington County]
‘The Burbs Are Back’ in Office Leasing — Arlington and other suburban D.C. jurisdictions are showing a bit of strength in the office leasing market. “The suburbs accounted for 69.5 percent of Washington region’s leasing activity in the first quarter, up substantially from a 52.9 percent share in 2015, according to JLL’s quarterly market reports.” [Virginia Business]
TSA Move Delayed Until 2020 — The Transportation Security Administration will be staying put at its Pentagon City headquarters until at least 2020. The TSA had planned to move to Alexandria by 2018, but legal wrangling has delayed the move and forced the TSA to redo its leasing process. [Washington Business Journal]
PSA: Don’t Do This — Spotted in Clarendon: a young woman urinating while sitting on a bench along a busy street, at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday. [Twitter]
A newly-released survey on recreational needs in Arlington may help the case for building an aquatics and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.
Arlington County scrapped plans to build a Long Bridge Aquatics Center in 2014, after construction bids on what was supposed to be a $79 million project came in well over budget. Since then, the county has sought public input on community recreation needs and considered partnering with the City of Alexandria on a facility.
Survey respondents ranked a swimming pool and fitness equipment as the county’s two top indoor recreation needs. That corresponds to the county’s goals for a new indoor “Aquatic, Health and Fitness Facility” at Long Bridge Park.
Furthermore, the survey asked specifically about potential amenities at such a facility. Seventy percent of respondents said they had an interest in amenities at a Long Bridge Park facility, ranking their three “most important” amenities as:
- 50 meter pool,
- Health/fitness space with cardio/strength training
- Leisure pool with water slide, lazy river
County Board member Jay Fisette said he was “hopeful” the county could move forward on the Long Bridge Park facility.
“This seems to suggest to me that it validates the same or more interest in Long Bridge Park than we thought there was before,” he said. Fisette pointed out that in 2012 nearly two-thirds of Arlington residents approved a bond issue that was intended primarily to pay for the aquatics and fitness facility.
John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, took a more restrained view.
“It really boils down to what sort of facilities and at what cost,” Vihstadt said. “I look forward to the discussion.”
Other survey findings include:
- Hiking trails, natural areas and paved multi-use trails are the top outdoor recreation priorities
- Nature, fitness and wellness programs, as well as special events and festivals, are the top parks and rec programming priorities
- Most people would support food and beverage — including, potentially, alcohol — options in local parks and public plazas
The full county press release about the survey results, after the jump.
APS Considering Elementary Options — Arlington Public Schools is considering a number of options for increasing elementary school capacity in South Arlington. Among the options are moving current Patrick Henry Elementary students to a new building while moving Drew Model School Montessori students to the current Patrick Henry building. APS is also considering the construction of a new elementary school in Pentagon City. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Tornado Drill Today — At 9:45 a.m., Virginia will hold its annual springtime tornado drill. The Commonwealth experiences 15-20 tornados per year on average, usually between April and September. [Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management]
2016 ARLnow Reader Survey — ARLnow.com is conducting our first annual reader survey. We’ve designed a survey that should take only 10 minutes to fill out, but could help ARLnow better serve the Arlington community for years to come. We would greatly appreciate your time in filling it out. [SurveyMonkey]
Arlington has set up a text line and a new website to gather suggestions for digital tools that could “make it easier to communicate and do business with the County.” The website says the suggestion-gathering effort will wrap up by Nov. 15.
From a press release:
The County is always looking for new opportunities to engage its residents and gain their input on the issues that matter. Today, we’re launching a month long outreach effort to ask Arlingtonians what future mobile or online services they think would make it easier to communicate and do business with the County.
Participants should visit http://insights.arlingtonva.us or or send a text to 703-270-0070 to share their ideas for a new mobile or online service. Once we conclude the input period, we will gather the ideas, develop insights and then use the information as part of our overall decision making process. We’ll be sharing our findings with participants and others along the way.
Brief Ebola Scare at EPA HQ — Hazmat and EMS teams were dispatched to the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Crystal City this morning for a possible Ebola patient. After an assessment by a doctor, it was determined that the patient — a man in his 50s — did not have the likely symptoms of Ebola.
Arlington Launches Startup Competition — Arlington County is partnering with the website Tech.Co to run a contest to attract new startups to Arlington. Starting today, startups can apply for the chance to receive three months of free work and living space, plus free legal advice and public transit funds. [Tech.Co, Arlington Economic Development]
Stolen Car Crashes in Fairlington — A stolen car crashed in a quiet Fairlington neighborhood early Tuesday morning, after fleeing from a traffic stop. The suspects fled the scene and police were unable to track them down. [Patch]
Arlington Artist Survey — Arlington Cultural Affairs is surveying local artists about their needs for space to create art. “We would like to understand the space requirements of artists so that we can optimize the use of our current facilities and plan for future growth… Arlington Cultural Affairs is working both internally and externally to ensure that Arlington’s cultural scene remains vibrant and engaging.” The survey deadline is Sept. 30. [Arlington Arts]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Deal With Hospital Expected — Arlington County is expected to hold a public meeting next month to discuss a land deal with Virginia Hospital Center. The county is reportedly ready to sign a memorandum of understanding with the hospital for a five-acre, county-owned parcel of land adjacent to it, which would then allow the hospital to expand. Details of the deal were not yet available. [Washington Business Journal]
County History Survey — To help county leaders understand which aspects of local history are especially important to residents, Arlington is conducting an online survey, asking for “ideas on collecting, preserving, sharing our history.” An Arlington Historical Task Force will take the survey into account when presenting recommendations for historic preservation priorities later this year. [Arlington County, Preservation Arlington]
When the KKK Marched Through Arlington — In 1922 about 400 members of the Ku Klux Klan, including some prominent local citizens, marched through Arlington neighborhoods like Clarendon, Ballston, Cherrydale and Rosslyn. At the time, the Klan was a powerful organization that claimed 60,000 members in Northern Virginia, sponsored youth baseball teams and owned a field for cross burnings on what is now Ballston Common Mall. The Klan’s message was that of racism and intolerance, but it also advocated for law and order and against corruption in government and vices like drinking. [Falls Church News-Press, Our Redneck Past]
Theodore Roosevelt Island Profiled — USA Today has published a profile of Theodore Roosevelt Island, near Rosslyn. Included in the profile are notable facts about the island, including the fact that what now appears to be a natural forest was “clear-cut, trampled and even bombed by 1931.” [USA Today]
Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]
Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]
County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]
ACPD Patrolling Trails — Auxiliary officers with the Arlington County Police Department will be increasingly patrolling trails around the county this spring, to help keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe. [InsideNova]
Arlington Transit Survey — Arlington County is conducting an online survey of residents as part of its update of Arlington’s Transit Development Plan. The 10-year-plan is intended to identify transit goals and prioritize improvements. This latest update will include recommendations for future transit on Columbia Pike. [SurveyMonkey]
Forums Shut Down — Due to an influx of uncontrollable spam and an unresolvable technical glitch with the latest version of WordPress, ARLnow.com has made the decision to shut down our message board indefinitely. Thank you to our forum participants for four years of vigorous community discussion.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Advocates Decry Proposed Bike Cut — An optional budget cut floated by Arlington County Manger Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2015-2016 budget is attracting some push back from cyclists. Donnellan said the County Board should consider a $800,000 cut in funds for the county’s BikeArlington program if it wants to make additional cuts beyond her base budget. Bike advocates say the cut “would be a huge mistake.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Condo Fence Mowed Down — A car ran through the fence of a condominium complex next to Long Branch Elementary School Sunday evening. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Resident Survey to Be Mailed — Arlington County is planning to mail its fourth resident survey to 3,600 randomly selected residents. “This survey will help us find out how we’re doing across many different service areas – and also pinpoint where we need to improve,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. [Arlington County]
Custis Trail Added to Beer Guide — A guide intended to show D.C. area cyclists where they can grab craft brews near local trails has added Arlington’s Custis Trail to its directory. [Bikeable Brews]
A-SPAN To Help Meet Homeless Goals — Arlington County has signed on to a pair of ambitious goals: to house all homeless veterans in the community by the end of 2015 and end chronic homelessness by 2016. The Arlington Street People’s Network, the nonprofit organization that will be running Arlington’s soon-to-open year-round homeless shelter, is preparing to do its part to help achieve those goals. [InsideNova]
In 2000, 19,740 apartments owned by for-profit property owners in the county were affordable for someone making up to 60 percent of the region’s area median income, according to findings from the county’s three-year Affordable Housing Study. In 2013, there were 3,437 “MARKs,” as they’re called.
(“Affordable” is defined as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income.)
If the trend holds, there will be a “negligible” amount around the county by 2020, according to Russell Danao-Schroeder, senior housing planner in the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
“If you just look at that chart [above], and if you do a trend line analysis projecting that out, it’s easy to see where that goes,” Danao-Schroeder said. “It crosses zero before 2020.”
That is the reality the Arlington County Board will grapple with as it works toward adopting an Affordable Housing Master Plan in July. The affordable housing study has completed its research and staff, along with the Affordable Housing Study Working Group, released findings and recommendations last month in a draft master plan.
While affordable, market-rate housing is drying up, the county could try to kick-start committed affordable housing development to balance the scales. The county currently has 6,731 committed affordable units (CAFs) rented or leasing, with another 220 being developed, less than 10 percent of total apartment stock.
The draft master plan sets a goal of making 17.7 percent of all housing units in the county affordable at 60 percent AMI. If county projections hold true, that would mean asking developers to build 15,800 CAFs in the next 25 years. Even Danao-Schroeder, who helped draft the plan, admitted the goal isn’t pragmatic.
“That 17.7 percent number is what we would need to have sufficient housing for households at all income levels,” he told ARLnow.com on Friday. “That’s an awful lot. It’s going to be hard to hit that, but that’s the mark that we need to aim for.”
Members of the County Board have time and again reaffirmed their commitment to affordable housing, and a county-run survey of Arlington residents indicates the community approves of the Board’s efforts. In 2012, the Board launched the study with a charge of creating “a shared community vision of Arlington’s affordable housing as a key component of our community sustainability.”
Proponents of affordable housing often say it’s necessary for Arlington to have places for people like teachers, policemen and firefighters to live within the county. However, according to a survey of 336 CAF residents — 5 percent of the county’s CAF population, “a fairly large sample size” Danao-Schroeder said — only 1.8 percent work in education. Of those respondents, none were Arlington teachers or classroom aides.
There is no data for public safety employees, CPHD staff said. If any live in CAFs, they would be among the 6.3 percent who responded “other” to the survey.
“Arlington County pays their teachers well and pays their public safety people well,” Danao-Schroeder said. “Other areas in other service sectors that we all depend upon in our daily lives are the primary clients and tenants of affordable units.”
The largest industry represented in CAFs is restaurant and food service at 16.7 percent. Construction workers account for 11 percent of CAF residents, with office workers like receptionists in third place at 9.2 percent, followed by taxi and other drivers at 8.3 percent.
The study, tabulated in infographic form (left) by county-funded transit research organization Mobility Lab, used 2013 data to analyze the commuting habits of of 131,300 working Arlington residents and the 180,300 who work in the county.
According to the study, 7 percent of all commuting trips by Arlington residents are either on foot or with a bicycle, and 4 percent of Arlington workers report either walking or biking to work. While 7.4 percent of commuting trips were biking and walking in the previous study, conducted in 2010, Mobility Lab Research Director Stephen Crim told ARLnow.com that he believes the 576-resident sample did not represent the county’s changing commuting patterns.
“We looked at this in comparison to census figures, and the census is showing really strong growth [in walking and biking] between the 2013 community survey and the 2010 community survey,” Crim said, “so we think there is an increase, but the sample didn’t pick that up.”
The longer term trend is clear: in 2004, only 4 percent of county residents biked or walked to work, and only 2.8 percent arrived at their jobs in Arlington via bike or foot.
The number of Arlington residents that drive alone to work is virtually unchanged — from 55 percent in 2010 to 54 percent last year — and hasn’t decreased significantly over the last 10 years, despite local officials’ emphasis on the “Car Free Diet.” Crim said that transit advocates should not be discouraged, however.
“A few percentage points over that period I’d say is real progress,” he said. “For Arlington residents, it’s a kind of hard argument to make because a lot of them are not going that far to work. Satisfaction across all the different modes is about the same. It’s that much more difficult sometimes, to make the argument, when someone still owns a car to not use it for work. They might have to drive a short distance or not get on a crowded interstate, so it’s a real challenge for all of Arlington’s programs.”
Compared with other jurisdictions around the region, Arlington’s residents lag behind only the District’s in alternative modes of transportation to driving. The regional average for those who drive alone to work is close to 70 percent, but only 38 percent of D.C. residents drive solo to the office.
Arlington residents’ use of Metrorail took a slight dip, from its peak of 27 percent in 2010 to 26 percent last year. The number coincides with the region as a whole; according to Mobility Lab, Metro’s ridership has been in decline since 2009.
The biggest statistical shift in working patterns comes from employees teleworking. In 2004, only 13 percent of Arlington residents said they teleworked at any point during the week. In 2013, that number is 30 percent, with the respondents teleworking on average 1.3 days per week. In addition, 19 percent of Arlington residents said they can’t telework at their current job, but “could and would” if the option were available to them.
Image courtesy Mobility Lab
The results were tallied in APS’ biennial community survey, released this month. The survey, conducted by a District-based polling company, randomly selected respondents and polled 1,680 staff, 1,160 students, 602 parents and 600 Arlington County residents without a direct connection to the school system.
The company says its results had a “95 percent confidence score.”
While 12 percent of teachers and staff gave Murphy a failing grade and 20 percent graded him at a “D,” teachers were generally satisfied with other aspects of their positions. Seventy-two percent gave their school administrators or department’s assistant superintendent an “A” or “B” grade, 85 percent gave high marks for their school and 91 percent gave high marks for their colleagues. Two-thirds of teachers also said they were satisfied with the compensation they receive.
Students also gave the school system generally high marks — 78 percent gave their school either an “A” or “B,” with 70 percent of teachers earning those high marks from students — but 18 percent of students agreed with the statement that they felt bullied in school. Eighteen percent of students also responded that they disagree that “School staff stops bullying in school whenever they see it.”
Parents were even more positive about their school experience, with 94 percent giving high marks to their child’s school and 90 percent giving high marks to APS as a whole. What’s more, 81 percent of parents are satisfied with their involvement in the School Board’s decision-making process — APS teachers and staff are, by contrast, 55 percent satisfied with their inclusion in the School Board’s process.
Other items of note from the survey results:
- 8 percent of students report that they spend too little of their after school time on homework.
- 64 percent of students said they don’t like “to wake up early for school,” the top response in the survey asking about local students dislike. Fifty percent said they dislike doing homework, and 42 percent said they are “bored at school” (students were allowed multiple answers).
- 55 percent of parents gave Murphy an “A” or “B” grade, but 37 percent said they “don’t know” how they feel about Murphy’s job performance
- 93 percent of parents agreed that “my child likes to go to school.” The top response in the “I like to go to school because” question for students was “I like to see my friends,” with 83 percent, followed by “it will help me in the future” at 75 percent.
A new, county-funded study, polling young professionals who live and/or work in Arlington, found those who live in the county do so because of their job, not necessarily because of its amenities or social scene.
The study was conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research on behalf of Arlington Economic Development, and polled 400 residents who identify as either Millennials or Generation X-ers. Of those polled, 139 live and work in Arlington, 137 live in Arlington and work elsewhere and 124 work in Arlington and commute from the surrounding area.
Of those who live and work in Arlington, 45 percent said they live in the county because of their job or because of “professional opportunities,” while 39 percent of those who live in Arlington and work elsewhere said they are in the county for professional reasons. “Location” was the second-most popular reason given to live in Arlington, followed by “friends/social scene.”
“Arlington County does not appear to be an area [young professionals] consider initially beyond a focus on a job opportunity,” the study’s authors, two AED interns, write. “It is not a place with YPs who have strong roots there or who are moving there for the people. With this being a strength, Arlington County should lead with jobs when promoting the area to YPs. During a time when it is hard for young people to find a job, this may prove a great strength for Arlington.”
Young professionals, despite moving to Arlington largely for work reasons, like living in the county, with 89 percent of people who live in the county calling it “a great place to live.” Eighty percent of respondents who live and work in the county also called it a “great place to live.”
“There is a great opportunity among those who only work in the County to showcase the reasons why Arlington is a great place to live,” the study says. “These respondents are not likely to recommend Arlington County as a place to live and when asked if they were to consider living in the County, only three in ten say they would. One of the goals moving forward should be to decrease these gaps.”
The top reason among those who work, but don’t live, in Arlington for living elsewhere was the cost of housing.
“I couldn’t even rent a spare bedroom for under $1500 in a decent neighborhood,” one respondent said. “Rent/housing is way too expensive.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
A majority of Arlington residents between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to leave the county within five years because of the cost of housing, according to a county-sponsored survey.
According to the survey, which polled 1,744 Arlington residents, 60 percent of 25-34 year olds responded “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to the question: “In the next five years or so, how likely is it you will have to move out of Arlington because you would not have the kind of housing you want at the price you can afford?”
Thirty-four percent of respondents said it was “very likely” they would move away.
The survey is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which launched in July 2012 and is being run by Arlington’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Michael Spotts, the vice chair of the working group, said the high cost of housing in Arlington is an impediment to those hoping to start families here.
“It was a little surprising to me,” Spotts, 30, said about the survey results, “but I think whether [current 25-34 year olds moving out of Arlington] will actually happen depends a lot on how consumer preferences change moving forward.
“I’m a millennial myself and my wife and I live in Arlington, and we bought a house in Arlington and are very happy here,” Spotts continued. “I think it was a little surprising, but given how expensive it is, especially as people get older and start a family, it’s not particularly surprising.”
According to the study, 39 percent of the 25-34 age range said they want to buy a home at some point in the future, and Arlington is out of their price range. The study also included the figures on which ARLnow.com reported earlier this week that suggested residents generally approve of the Arlington County Board’s affordable housing policies and priorities.
County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes is the Board’s liaison to the working group, and she presented the survey to the Board last week. While Hynes said everyone is aware of the housing struggle in Arlington, even she was surprised that so many younger residents were planning to leave.
“The numbers do jump out at you,” Hynes told ARLnow.com on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday. “It is one of the reasons we’re being so proactive around housing, because we know it’s a challenge for people. It’s not just a challenge for Arlington, it’s a challenge for the whole region.”
The same question about moving within five years, when asked to minority groups, received a lower but still high “likely” response.
Forty percent of Hispanic respondents and 50 percent of African Americans said they were somewhat or very likely to leave Arlington within five years due to housing costs. The lowest “likely” response came from current property owners, at 28 percent.
The region’s economic prosperity is generally viewed as the main factor that housing prices have escalated to the point where such a study is even worthwhile, but Spotts said Arlington may have inadvertently contributed to its own predicament.
“One of the things that a lot of people, generally speaking, would find surprising is that all of the things that go into the county that make it great are also things that can add cost to housing,” Spotts, who studies affordable housing policy as his career, said. “You want to protect your parkland and streams, and there’s a direct cost of those elements in terms of maintaining green space, but there’s also sort of an indirect cost. If you’re restricting some of the housing you can build because of other goals, then that drives up the cost of housing.”