Crystal City Traffic Impact Analysis Misreported

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on May 19, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I’m speaking on my own behalf, and my opinion does not reflect that of the Commission on the matter at hand.

I like this plan because its principal feature, a 21 story residential tower, represents a practical way to reuse a vacant office building that promises to remain vacant otherwise. It will meet the demand for more housing while promising economic benefits to the developer and the County. The architectural design is aesthetically pleasing, and the developer promises to dedicate a major portion of the site to a public park.

However, my principal focus is traffic generated by the development, and I am concerned about the numbers reported and the conclusions drawn by the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), which is referenced in the staff report accompanying this agenda item. Continue reading

Traffic Impacts? What Traffic Impacts?

Remarks for Arlington County Board meeting on April 21, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I’m speaking on my own behalf, and my opinion does not reflect that of the Commission on the matter at hand.

I applaud Wesley Housing Development Corporation’s ambitious plan to put in affordable housing at Route 50 near George Mason Drive. But analysis of the traffic impact analysis (TIA) prepared by Wells + Associates belies its claim that the traffic impacts of the project will be negligible. Continue reading

Citizen Opposition to High Density Ballston Development Quashed

Remarks at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 24, 2018.

While ignoring citizen concerns about the impacts of high density development is routine in Arlington County, there are two remarkable features about the plan to densify North Ballston:

  1. At its February 12 meeting, 2018, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan even though the developer rejected its modest recommendation to limit the development to six stories and maintain a thirty foot separation between the proposed apartment building and the south wing of the Westview condominium.
  2. County staff contradicted itself in arguing that the quiet enjoyment of Westview Condominium residents would not be disturbed.

Regarding the first point, Commissioner Iacomini opined at the February 12, 2018 Planning Commission meeting that despite her misgivings about the plan, it would be “churlish” not to go along with it.

Commissioner Iacomini did not elucidate why it would be churlish to stand her ground on recommendations that she herself proposed. Evidently the Commissioner was cowed by County Board’s earlier rejection of her recommendations on advice of County staff. What this ethic implies is that whenever a commissioner is overruled, he/she ought to roll over.

Regarding the second point, County staff acknowledged in its report that both sunlight and views will be disturbed by the development.

The building will cast a new shadow to the east onto the 9-story Westview building during the spring, summer, and fall during the afternoon and evening hours. However, the shadowing at this specific site is more related to the heights of buildings, and it is unlikely that adjusting the placement of the subject building by several feet will have an effect on the shadows being cast onto the existing buildings. In addition, the shadow studies show that for much of the year, the existing Westview buildings will cast shadows onto the new building. The placement of the subject building will not result in a detrimental impact to the existing Westview buildings’ access to sunlight. p. 31.

What this means is that because building height is the culprit, building separation doesn’t matter, and because both the new high rise and the existing condominium will produce shadows, there will be no detrimental impact on Westview neighbors.

With rationalizations like these, it is no wonder that staff has also concluded that impacts in the form of increased congestion and student enrollment will also be negligible.

In the larger scheme of things, none of these impacts matter. All that matters is the financial impact of the development, which will enrich both the developer and the County.

PRESS RELEASE: Compromise On Community Concerns Not an Option for County Board

September 25, 2017

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

Do you wonder why Arlington streets are so congested, its schools overcrowded, and its parks candidates for the Endangered Species List? Arlington County Board will tell you that the County is a victim of its own success in attracting new residents to its walkable, Metro accessible neighborhoods.

The fact of the matter is the County could easily accommodate more new residents with fewer impacts if it adhered to its own written policies, the recommendations of its commissions and the advice of the public.

Consider that on September 16, the County approved the design for a new community center near Lubber Run that was deprecated by the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group (NRJAG), the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC) and the Urban Forestry Commission, because it will necessitate major excavation of the site to put in a massive underground parking garage in contravention of its Car Free Diet policy. It will also require removal of 100 shade trees in contravention of the County’s Public Spaces Master Plan. These features will likely induce runoff and degradation of the nearby Lubber Run watershed.

On September 19, the County approved the location of new a VRE rail station in Crystal City, ignoring the pleas of the Planning Commission, Crystal City civic organizations and condo association leaders to defer a decision until the costs and impacts of alternative sites are fully evaluated–a modest request considering that the new rail station will be a permanent landmark and a major Northern Virginia transportation hub.

Also on September 19, the County ignored the pleas of numerous residents of the Leeway Overlee community to approve a day care center that will likely engender cut through traffic on an adjacent one lane street off Lee Highway that has already experienced major traffic accidents.

In each instance the demands of development superseded the concerns of residents about the environmental impacts of the project. In each of these cases, modifications to the scale or siting of the proposed facility would have appeased neighbors and resulted in a structure more in keeping with its surroundings.

So why isn’t County Board listening to all of its citizens? The simple answer is that confident that it will get reelected no matter what it does, the Board simply doesn’t care.

You can help turn that situation around by electing another Independent to Arlington County Board who will be accountable to the voters. Arlington currently has one Independent on County Board, who is well respected among County residents. Let’s make it two!!!

If elected, I 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 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.

VRE Crystal City Rail Station Needs More Study

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on 9/19/2017.

The fact that VRE is planning a new rail station for Crystal City points to the success of its rail operations in Northern Virginia. The fact that it has actively solicited input from VRE rail riders demonstrates its commitment to serving them. Unfortunately VRE’s consensus building efforts have excluded residents of Crystal City, who challenge VRE’s claims that construction of Option 2 will have no significant noise or pollution impacts. Continue reading

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.

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.