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.

Donald Trump Has More Taste Than Arlington County Government?

Comments on impending demolition of historic Wilson School at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

I think it’s safe to say that President Trump is not popular in Arlington right now, given the lopsided vote the County delivered to his opponent last November—76 percent to be precise. Contributing to Trump’s lack of popularity in liberal circles is the widespread perception that he epitomizes tasteless wealth, i.e. the nouveau riche.

Yet on my way to a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest last December, I passed the Old Post Office Pavilion, newly renovated by Trump into a luxury hotel. I observed that no pains were spared to restore the exterior of the Post Office Pavilion to its original grandeur. Continue reading

No Cost Benefit Analysis For WRAPS Plan

Comments on the West Rosslyn Area Plan Study (WRAPS) at Arlington County Board Meeting on February 25, 2017.

The WRAPS project is promoted by County staff as a great deal for Rosslyn. With developer Penzance underwriting the cost of a new fire station, a new cross street, a new park and a ground lease on County property worth millions of dollars, what’s not to like about it?

Well, for one thing the park to be constructed occupies only a portion of the original Rosslyn-Highlands Park, and this space will be shared by at least 1,000 additional residents in two high rises to be constructed on the site. The fire station will share a building with residents of 330 apartments in one of the towers. Residents here and the 560 units in the apartment building next door will compete with 775 students of the adjacent new Wilson School for short term parking, recreational facilities, pedestrian access and public transit. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Nestle USA’s Relocation to Arlington Not So Sweet

Arlington County Board Candidate Audrey Clement welcomed the news that 1812 N. Moore Street, Arlington’s tallest office building–which has been vacant since construction in 2013–will soon have a new tenant.

“Finding a tenant was a major coup for the owner, Monday Properties, and for the County itself, which is struggling with a 20% office vacancy rate,” said Clement. “But the choice of tenant–Nestle USA–leaves a lot to be desired.”

With a market capitalization of $235 billion and $9.4 billion in annual profits, Nestle is the world’s largest food corporation. But there is a dark side to Nestle – and it’s not chocolate. Continue reading

Cost of Temporary Fire Station at Wilson School Unknown

While I am relieved that County Staff has not recommended Rhodeside Green Park as the site of a temporary fire station, I’m concerned about the process by which Wilson School was selected.

First, it is evident that while the County Manager’s office solicited input, its response to community in the published temporary fire station FAQ indicates that most of the objections to the Wilson School site were dismissed.

Second, while an alternatives analysis was done, the results of that analysis, published as Attachment 3 to the staff report, show that no serious cost benefit analysis was undertaken.

Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: Clement Exposes Disturbing Development Trends in Arlington

 ARLINGTON, VA – While most Arlington residents are focused on this year’s presidential race, there are other important elections in progress. The County Board race offers Arlington voters a stark choice between the status quo embraced by my opponent Libby Garvey and the reforms I advocate as her challenger.

Development has transformed Arlington. New high rise construction is ongoing in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Columbia Pike and Pentagon City. In Ballston alone, 2000 new apartment units and 420,000 square feet of office space are planned or under construction.

While many view the County’s construction boom as a sign of prosperity, it belies some disturbing trends. First, at 20 percent the office vacancy is unacceptably high. Second, the impacts of hyper-development on schools, streets and parks have been largely ignored by County Board.

The most disturbing trend is the emergence of more classroom trailers on school campuses all over the county. In fact over 3,000 students are housed in trailers and many more will be in the future, as new housing construction produces a bumper crop of new students. Yet the County insists that the impact of new high rise development on the school age population is negligible.

In fact School Board incumbent Nancy Van Doren insisted at the September 6 Civic Federation debate that planned new classroom capacity will erase Arlington Public Schools (APS) projected 4,600 classroom seat deficit. Scrutiny of School Board budget documents reveals that Nancy arrived at this conclusion by double counting recently added new classroom capacity. Yet no one on County Board, let alone incumbent Libby Garvey has set the record straight.

Not only are County officials pushing the myth that massive new developments planned for Rosslyn, Ballston and Pentagon City will have minimal impacts on school enrollment, they also maintain that the impacts on traffic will be minimal. For example, a traffic impact analysis (TIA) done for the relatively modest six story development that will replace the Food Star at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive will degrade rush hour traffic at the intersection from LOS D, which is stable to LOS E or “operating at capacity”. But this isn’t cause for concern for the County, since traffic congestion is routine in urban areas.

A massive Rosslyn Plaza Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) between Kent Street and Arlington Ridge Road that will house 500 new housing units, 200 new hotel rooms, and 1.8 million square feet of office space, is slated for 2,168 parking spaces. According to the TIA, “at full build-out, six of the eleven signalized study intersections surrounding the site would operate at unacceptable levels of service in their current configuration.” But not to worry, because the impacts will be mitigated by a new street signal and road network.

In approving the PDSP, not only did County Board ignore the impact of additional traffic, it also ignored the joint appeal of the Metropolitan Washington Airlines Committee, Airports Authority, American Airlines, Airlines for America, and the Airline Pilots Association to defer approval of the Rosslyn Plaza project until FAA has decided whether to amend its regulations to consider the hazard of constructing office towers so close to White House prohibited airspace.

Finally there’s the issue of green space. At .8 acre Rosslyn Plaza is less than the 1 acre mandated by the Rosslyn Sector plan. 750 Glebe Road, the massive 500 unit luxury development at the intersection of Wilson Blvd. and Glebe Road, will have no publicly accessible green space. The developer of 2000 Clarendon Blvd. offers no new parks in return for the upzoned residential tower it plans to construct adjacent to the Odyssey. In rubber stamping these projects, County Board has essentially told residents that they can expect few natural amenities in return for usurious rents.

If elected to County Board, I plan to seek a fiscal an impact analysis of every major site plan development to assure that the project actually benefits the County and that its impacts are adequately addressed.

In addition, I plan to:
  • Seek 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 12-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

You can make a difference! Boost my campaign for Arlington County Board by:

  • volunteering for an hour at your polling place on Election Day;
  • donating time or money;
  • planting a yard sign in your yard or window;
  • spreading the word via your PTA, civic association, listserv or blog.
Together we can make the “Arlington Way” more than an empty phrase.

Rosslyn Residents Get a New WRAP

In justifying its decision to put a temporary fire station on the Wilson School playing field, the County claims that the plan for the WRAPS site was “developed through an extensive community planning process with broad participation from County commissions, civic associations and other stakeholders. . .”

Yet it is now known that the deal to redevelop the WRAPS site was cut with Penzance in a secret Letter of Intent (LOI) in January 2013, the existence of which was withheld from the community until almost a year later.

Characterizing the WRAPS planning process as transparent is a cruel joke to Rosslyn civic leaders, who were already upset when they penned the following in a letter to County Board on June 16, 2015:

“Furthermore, the [WRAPS] proposal fails to meet long acknowledged open space needs of the Rosslyn neighborhood, which lacks sufficient parkland for its substantial and growing population. In fact, the plan actually decreases rather than increases parkland. The population at the WRAPS site will increased by a projected 80 percent . . .; yet the community is losing at least 30 percent of the existing open space. In addition, access to the Wilson School field which has a common use area for many years, will now necessarily be limited during school hours, further reducing open space available to the community.”

Were it not for the vocal opposition of the same civic leaders who showed up at the July 16, County Board meeting, the County might have approved a deal that would have deprived Rosslyn residents of much of its remaining green space for another five years.

As a result of their opposition, County Board has delayed a decision on where to locate the temporary fire station till September. In the meantime, County Board promises to involve the community in exploring two other sites–Rhodeside Green Park, and a lot near Rosslyn Holiday Inn.

In March, 2015 Rosslyn neighbors rallied to save Rosslyn Highlands. At the time, other than the aforementioned civic leaders, few expressed concern about the planned demolition of historic Wilson School next door as part of the WRAPs project. The sentiment was that if sacrificing the school would save the park then that was okay.

Now we see that the decision to demolish the school has only whetted the County’s appetite to inflict more unwanted outcomes on Rosslyn neighbors. What’s worse, the controversy spawned over relocating the fire station highlights the unworkability of a plan that shoehorns residential and mixed use development, a major secondary school, a fire station and a public park all within about six acres.

Supermarket at Mazda Site a Bad Idea

750 N. Glebe is a 12 story mid-rise mixed use development project consisting of 491 luxury apartments, 733 park spaces and 62,000 square feet of retail space including a supermarket.

The fact that virtually none of the units except 22 CAFs designated as “affordable” will be affordable to most Arlington residents is cause for concern. The impact of adding almost 500 additional units in the immediate vicinity of Ballston Mall, which has already absorbed 1,500 newly constructed or soon to be constructed units is cause for even greater concern. But inclusion in this project of a grocery store that will generate 4,800 car trips on week days and 7,700 trips on Saturdays gives pause. Continue reading