There are three problems with the Columbia Pike Trolley: 1) excessive cost; 2) increased congestion due to the narrowness of the roadway; 3) the elimination of affordable housing along the Pike due to the escalation of property values from trolley induced development.
Supporters of the Trolley acknowledge that a bus rapid transit system serving the same number of passengers, could be built for $50 million, but they nevertheless favor the Trolley at five times the cost. While developers will benefit from a Trolley, Arlington taxpayers will be stuck with the $250 million bill. Continue reading
In an April 23 editorial, the Washington Post trotted out several myths to support its argument that nuclear is preferable to renewable energy. Among them was the notion that nuclear is the only reliable source of low carbon emissions energy. WP reported Germany has been forced to import fossil fuel generated electricity after shutting down 8 nuclear power plants. Yet the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear reports that Germany is a net energy exporter that reduced its carbon emissions 2.1 percent in 2011. Continue reading
Recently the Sun Gazette reported that the state legislature is going to eliminate $100,000 in county road maintenance funds to cover legal fees to defend former state Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer in connection with the I-395 HOT lanes project that Arlington County Board sued to stop in 2010. This move reflects a bipartisan consensus in Richmond that County Board was wrong to sue Homer and other transportation officials in an individual rather than official capacity, thus making them personally liable. Continue reading
Arlington County Board finally bowed to pressure from the Arlington Green Party and other homeless advocates, opting at a contentious December 13 hearing to purchase the Thomas Building at 2020 14th Street to house a new year round shelter. No one disputes the need for such a shelter, but at what cost? The county has offered to purchase the building for $25.5 million and put up another $9 million to retrofit two floors to house the homeless. The remaining floors will house county staff. The county will forego $155,000 a year in tax revenue from businesses evicted from the building once it’s acquired from its unwilling owners, probably by eminent domain. Continue reading
On November 29, the Artisphere Task Force appointed by the County Manager last April presented its report on the troubled Rosslyn entertainment venue and its recommendations for making it financially viable. At first blush the report seems like a refreshing change from business as usual, as it presents an unvarnished appraisal of the flawed planning that went into the project. Continue reading
In its November 5 editorial endorsement of Arlington County Board incumbents Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, the Washington Post depicted Arlington as a latter day Camelot where yuppies frolic, and the streets are paved with gold:
“Arlington County has been substantially remade in the last couple of decades mostly for the better. An influx of shops, restaurants and apartment buildings, mainly near Metro stations, has attracted a new generation of ambitious young professionals and lent the county a cosmopolitan gloss,” etc. etc. Continue reading
It seems Arlington County is obsessed with development. Having approved plans to increase the density of Crystal City by 50 percent, construct a 600,000 sq. foot high rise on the EFC Park and Ride lot and redevelop Columbia Pike at triple density, County Board will soon approve plans to construct a 532 unit apartment complex on Wilson Blvd. between Kansas and Lincoln Streets in Ballston (Virginia Square Towers) and a new six story headquarters for Boeing in North Crystal City (Monument View). Also on the drawing boards are plans to construct a 22 story office tower (Penn Square) behind Costco’s in Pentagon City. County Board touts these projects as proof of its commitment to “Smart Growth,” i.e. dense development along transit corridors. Continue reading
Most people think that recycling promotes the common good. But it could mean losing your apartment or condo to an upscale developer. According to the recently released “Columbia Pike Land Use & Housing Study Preliminary Analysis Report,” drafted by Dover, Kohl & Partners, that’s what’s happening on Columbia Pike right now. Commissioned by the County to determine the feasibility of undertaking residential redevelopment of the Pike, Dover, Kohl candidly reports that of about 1000 new apartments constructed on the Pike since 2009 all are “high-end luxury units with no committed affordable housing.” p. 1.17. Rents on renovated units shot up–even doubled–and tenants have been evicted to make way for “repositioned”, i.e. upscale apartments. This is just the beginning. Continue reading
I recently investigated Arlington County Board’s claim that “Arlington is dedicated to advancing environmental sustainability”. I sent an FOIA request to Michael Clem, of the county’s Environmental Management Office, asking for the county’s recycling rate. Clem reported a 39.9% recycling rate for 2010. This compares with a statewide recycling rate of 38.6% for 2009. So Arlington’s recycling rate is approximately the same as the rest of the state and a far cry from Falls Church, which recycles 57.6% of its waste. This is troubling not only because it belies Arlington’s claims of sustainability, but because Virginia itself lags behind the rest of the nation in recycling and recycling infrastructure. In fact a Virginia Beach recycling specialist told me in 2008 that outside Virginia Beach there are no comprehensive recycling facilities in the state, and Northern VA trucks its recyclables to Maryland for processing. Continue reading
Arlington Green Party chairman John Reeder was taken to task in the Sun Gazette for his LTE criticizing the Artisphere as a white elephant project and recommending that the county shut it down. Reeder wrote back:
I neglected to mention that on top of this $800,000 loss is the expected $800,000 loss that the county government had already anticipated and budgeted. In other words, the Artisphere is now running a $1.6 million loss so far this operating year.
I appreciate the arts, but I appreciate learning and reading at our public libraries as well, and value homeless people having a roof over their heads and a daily hotmeal. I suggest that the county government could transfer park employees and maintenance funds now used at the Artisphere to repair and operate a closed and widely attended summer performing arts venue in Arlington—the Lubber Run Amphitheater.