Arlington Homeless Shelter: Another White Elephant Project

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

Artisphere Task Force Says There’s a Place for Us in the Budget

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

Let’s Set the Record Straight

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

“Smart Growth” and Rosslyn Station at Rush Hour

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

Recycling On Columbia Pike

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

Arlington Recycles?

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

Artisphere Is A Black Hole

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.

Continue reading

Arlington Green Concerned About Community Energy Plan

Arlington Green Steve Davis raised concerns about the viability of the county’s proposed Community Energy Plan (CEP) at the April 26 County Board Meeting. Speaking on behalf of the Arlington Green Party, which was a liaison to the Community Energy and Sustainability (CES) Task Force, Steve Davis said he agrees with the plan’s recommendations. But he doesn’t think it goes far enough. He’s also concerned that one of its core recommendations, a district energy company that would use cogeneration of heat and power (CHP) to reduce the carbon footprint of densely populated neighborhoods like Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City, might require state legislative approval. Continue reading

What’s So Smart About East Falls Church Area Plan?

On April 16 County Board voted to adopt the East Falls Church (EFC) Area Plan, touting it as the climax of a five year planning effort with lots of community input. Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth submitted remarks endorsing the plan, which entails 600,000 square feet of mixed used development, including replacement of the VDOT owned Metro parking facility at EFC with ground floor retail and up to eight stories of apartment/condo development. Mike Nardolilli, president of the EFC Civic Association, said that key features of the plan were all approved by EFC residents in a 2005 survey. But EFC resident John Shumate and others who testified challenged that claim. See Shumate’s website. Shumate said that only 7 percent of those surveyed bothered to respond and that Nardolilli systematically ignored or tried to silence civic association members critical of the plan. He claimed that the ultimate insult was Nardolilli’s acquiesence to 600,000 s.f. of development after pledging to set the limit at 450,000 s.f. Continue reading

County Board Echoes Fudged Numbers

At its April 16 meeting, Arlington County Board voted unanimously to adopt a budget for FY12 that includes no real estate tax increase and very limited restoration of library and public safety cuts enacted in 2009 and 2010. In doing so County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman repeated the carnard that county residents pay lower real estate taxes than other Northern Va. jurisdictions.

Unfortunately Zimmerman is wrong. Continue reading