PRESS RELEASE: Demolitions Ongoing in Westover Village

August 7, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Among the principal issues facing the County is the steady loss of market rate affordable housing. This week one more Westover Village apartment building was demolished to make way for luxury town homes.

Next week the garden apartment next door to it will be leveled. This brings to 9 the number of garden apartments in Westover Village leveled since 2013.

In 2016 the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) purchased eight apartment buildings housing 68 units to stave off more demolitions. But more than half the tenants in those buildings were evicted because they exceeded 60% of area median income of about $46,000 for one person. So according to APAH’s strict income guidelines, they had to go.

In a fact sheet published in 2016 APAH estimated that there were 450 remaining affordable units in Westover. Subtract from that the 68 it salvaged and the 16 units just demolished, and there are maybe 375 units left.

Since APAH has essentially maxed out its debt capacity in Westover, the only way to prevent the demolition of the remaining units is local historic designation, a petition for which was submitted to the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB) over a year ago.

At a public hearing in November, 2016, Westover single family homeowners opposed local historic designation. It didn’t matter that the neighborhood is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, nor that they can reap federal tax benefits from renovations to their homes as a result of such designation. They were outraged at restrictions it would place on exterior alterations to their homes. Some even argued that the apartments are an eyesore that should be demolished to make way for upscale housing and guarantee more profits for Westover businesses.

AHALRB attempted to appease homeowners by narrowing the boundaries of the proposed local historic district to the apartments, and it tasked County staff to study the matter, but since then the review board has done nothing. No wonder.

County records indicate that the sale price of the three Westover garden apartments demolished in 2013 was $4 million. The total sale price of the 20 luxury town homes that replaced them was $16.8 million dollars or more than 4 times the value of the original properties.

Not only has the developer made a killing on these properties, but the County has profited in the form of increased real estate tax revenue. In fact a net present value analysis that assumes a current tax rate of $1 per $100 of assessed valuation, an annual effective tax increase of 3 percent, and a current APR of 2 percent, put the tax revenue accruing to the County over fifty years at about $8 million.

If the County realizes the same rate of return on the demolition of the remaining Westover garden apartments, it will reap over $100 million in increased tax revenue over the lifetime of their replacements. So what’s not to like about that?

For one thing, there’s a fairness issue. A lot of longstanding, hardworking, responsible tenants are now facing long commutes as a result of displacement from Arlington County.

For another thing, there’s a public health issue. The most recent demolitions were put on hold when it was determined that both buildings were insulated with asbestos, making demolition hazardous for anyone in the nearby.

And there’s an economic issue. While the speculative prices commanded by the developers of Westover Village might be attractive to high income wage earners, they drive up assessments overall, spelling hardship and possible foreclosure for people on fixed incomes, single heads of households, and those who find themselves out of work.

This should be cause for concern to most government workers, given the imminent downsizing of the County’s biggest employer, the federal government, should Trump’s proposed budget cuts be enacted.

Finally the ongoing evictions in Westover undermine the Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP), the primary purpose of which is to preserve the County’s affordable housing.

If elected, I am going to call upon AHALRB to expedite consideration of petitions for local historic designation to preserve Arlington’s remaining affordable housing and stabilize Arlington’s housing market.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy.

Reconsider Approval of Design for Lubber Run Community Center

These remarks, delivered at July 18 Arlington County Board Meeting, are excerpted from a message sent to County officials on July 17 by long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg.

I request that you defer taking action on item 52 (Lubber Run Community Center – Endorsement of the Conceptual Design) for the following reasons: 1) flawed process, 2) environmental impact and 3) cost.
Continue reading

Approval of Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map Premature

Remarks given on behalf of long-time civic leader and environmentalist Suzanne Sundburg at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 15, 2017.

Please defer a vote on this agenda Item 50 (Updated Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map). A vote today is premature because agenda Item 52 (endorsement of the design and contract award for Lubber Run Community Center) — which will not be heard until the Board’s July 18 recess meeting – includes a geotechnical engineering report indicating the presence of a significant amount of water on the LRCC site. Continue reading

NVTA TransAction Meeting: A Pro Forma Exercise

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Meeting on July 13, 2017.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) has issued a call for public comment on TransAction, a draft list of transportation projects to be funded in Northern Virginia for the next six years.

With both population and employment in Northern Virginia expected to increase dramatically between now and 2040, NVTA has certainly made the case for substantial increases in the region’s investment in transportation infrastructure. I am nevertheless concerned about NVTA’s lack of transparency. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Just Say No To Business As Usual On Arlington County Board

July 8, 2017

I’m an Independent candidate in the race for an open seat on County Board in November, and I seek your endorsement.

Although my Democratic opponent Erik Gutshall claims to be a progressive, he was nominated in a “firehouse” caucus, imposed by party insiders that required all voters to sign a pledge that they

“do not intend to support, endorse or assist any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee in the ensuing election.”

It’s bad enough that the “Caucus” was meant to stack the deck in favor of Gutshall, the insiders’ favorite. What’s even worse is that the pledge itself infringes on your right to vote your conscience when you go to the polls in November. How arrogant! Any candidate who benefits from this undemocratic process is progressive in name only.

Politics aside, Arlington County is facing major challenges, including:

  • a 20 percent office vacancy rate;
  • an estimated 3,000 students in trailers;
  • major future Metro shortfalls; and
  • the likely disproportionate impact on Arlington businesses and residents of anticipated federal budget cuts this fall.

Meanwhile Erik’s record as a longstanding member of the Planning Commission and its current Chair, indicates that he is content with business as usual.

In fact a survey of recent Planning Commission decisions shows Gutshall endorsed every site plan development project submitted since the beginning of 2016–expressing little concern about the impacts on transportation, schools, parks and other public services.

If you are complacent about the future of Arlington County and content with someone who goes along to get along, then Gutshall is your man. If you feel as I do, that Arlington’s uncertain economic environment requires a more proactive form of leadership–INDEPENDENT LEADERSHIP–then I am your candidate.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • Seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

To find out more about my campaign, visit my website. Better still you can make a difference by endorsing my candidacy.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

County Board Awards Bloomberg a Benefits Package

Comments at County Board Meeting on June 20, 2017.

I am concerned about the deal to award Bloomberg BNA $2.8 million to maintain its headquarters in Crystal City. The staff report indicates that $500 thousand from a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF) grant will be deposited with the Arlington Economic Development Authority (EDA), which will then dole it out to BNA. The County will chip in $800 thousand in grant money plus $2 million in tax relief over five years.

The County Manager thinks this deal is worthwhile, because the County will get $23 million in tax benefits from BNA over the next ten years. In exchange BNA pledges to hire 250 additional staff and rent 78,000 additional square feet in the County. Continue reading

Arlington Planning Commission Rubber Stamps Upzoning of North Ballston

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on June 17, 2017

First I want to congratulate the Ballston Towne and Victoria at Ballston Homeowners Associations for their excellent assessments of the Planning Commission’s recommendation to advertise a GLUP amendment that will double the density of an already congested Ballston neighborhood beyond that which is currently allowed. This is precisely what is lacking from the Planning Commission itself under the leadership of my Democratic opponent—Mr. Erik Gutshall.

I also want to thank Dana Gerk for launching an online petition to stop the upzoning dead in its tracks. The commentary offered by dozens of petition signers clearly shows that Ballston residents reject staff’s program to densify this County under the rubric of “Smart Growth”. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: County Board and Planning Commission Rubber Stamp Development “On Steroids”

June 12, 2017

While most area residents are focused on political developments in Washington over which they have little influence, there are developments in Arlington that voters can do something about–site plan developments that is.

Since the beginning of 2016, County Board together with the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent have approved a dozen major site plan development projects grossing almost 6 million square feet of new floor space. This amounts to 3,400 new apartments and almost 5,600 additional parking spaces.

All this new construction will obviously have major impacts on traffic, school enrollment, and contention for parks, transit and other public amenities. But don’t tell that to that to the County Board and Planning Commission, which rubber stamped each of these deals on the recommendation of County staff.

To hear County staff tell it, the impact of massive new apartment complexes on schools will be minimal, because most enrollment comes from single family homes not apartment buildings. That’s funny. Last Friday afternoon dozens of kids from Kenmore MS piled onto the ART bus I took from Ballston to Columbia Pike, and virtually all of them got off the bus at the apartment complexes on South 7th Road.

A more telling number is the County’s estimate that students at the redeveloped Berkeley Apartments on South Glebe Road will increase by only 18 from 79 to 97 even though the number of units will increase by 120 from 137 to 257. The only way doubling the number of units would not double the number of students is if the developer constructed a cloister rather than a complex.

But the enrollment crisis pales by comparison with the traffic nightmare likely to descend on Arlington streets as a result of development “on steroids”. Consider that at 2.5 million square feet, the new Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development project near Lee Highway and Lynn Street will house 550 residential units, 200 hotel rooms and 2,168 parking spaces in an area that is arguably the most congested neighborhood in the county. Arlington itself is one of the most densely populated counties in the U.S.

The congestion in Rosslyn is already so severe that traffic routinely slows to a crawl over Key Bridge during rush hour. But that doesn’t phase County planners who counter that congestion will clog major intersections with or without development.

That’s right. The 750 Glebe project with 491 luxury apartments, a 733 space parking garage, and supermarket will not make the intersection of Wilson Blvd. and North Glebe Road any more congested than it is now.

Nor will the 365 unit apartment building, 604 space parking garage and supermarket at the site of the recently displaced Food Star make the intersection of George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike any more congested than now.

The County evidently is so confident that the new Penzance development in West Rosslyn with 891 housing units and 1,050 parking spaces next door to a new 750 seat high school, will not add more congestion to Wilson Blvd, that it didn’t even submit a traffic impact analysis report with its request for a use permit for the project in February, 2017.

If you agree with my opponent that new developments approved during his tenure at the Planning Commission will not have major traffic impacts, then I recommend you take a spin down Washington Blvd. between Ballston and East Falls Church during rush hour. But please do it before tolling goes in effect on a parallel stretch of I-66 or you may not make it home in time for dinner.

Unlike the Planning Commission chaired by my Democratic opponent that never saw a developer it didn’t like, I will, if elected, demand a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to determine objectively whether the project actually benefits County taxpayers.

If elected, I also pledge to:

  • seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 13-year Westover resident and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in political science and service as a Congressional Fellow–I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

To find out more about my campaign, visit

www.AudreyClement.com

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by volunteering for or donating to my campaign.

Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

PRESS RELEASE: Evictions Ongoing in Westover

Comments at County Board Meeting on May 20, 2017.

As a Westover Village tenant since 2004, I find it ironic that Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), which portrays itself as a champion of affordable housing, now comes before you asking permission to evict half the tenants whose buildings it saved from probable demolition in 2016. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Metro Responds to Climate March By Shutting Down Stations

May 1, 2017

On April 29 tens of thousands of people from all over the U.S. converged on Washington, DC, to protest the Trump Administration’s climate change denial policy. By all accounts the event was a success. While slogans denouncing Trump were everywhere, the defiant crowd never got out of hand, testimony to the professionalism of both the organizers and the DC police.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Metro, which actually stopped trains from running between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle. If the purpose of the service disruption was to prevent protesters from overcrowding the stations, the solution would have been to simply run trains past the stations, not stop running them through the stations.

As it was, thousands of protesters, tourists and Nationals baseball fans were unnecessarily inconvenienced. One wheel chair bound marcher told me he was forced to change trains three times to get to his car parked in Vienna. Not only that but Metro ran trains on a regular Saturday schedule fifteen or twenty minutes apart, even though the stations that remained open were deluged with commuters.

I learned from a DC sports fan that Metro categorically refuses to add trains or extend hours to accommodate major sports events.This is the same Metro that has jacked up fares and announced plans to cut service on dozens of bus lines, even ones that meet its own performance metrics. No wonder Metro has a cash flow problem. Hiking fares while decreasing service and turning a deaf ear to paying customers does not promote ridership. It cripples it.

There’s a plan afloat to provide Metro with a dedicated funding stream by imposing a one percent regional sales tax to pay for its operations. It’s time for elected officials to stop throwing money at Metro and insist that it operate like a regional transit provider instead of a bus shuttle service. Metro should get dedicated funding ONLY if it agrees to extend train service as needed for major sports and other high attendance events.

Metro safety includes more than repairing infrastructure. It means getting commuters to/from their destinations with a minimum of service disruption and platform overcrowding. If elected to County Board, you can be sure I will insist on that. If elected, I also pledge to:

  • seek ongoing tax relief for residents and businesses and stop the exodus of federal agencies from Arlington.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers