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.

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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

Westover Neighborhood Recycling In Progress

As many of you know, Evergreene Homes demolished three historic Westover garden apartment buildings in 2013 to make way for luxury townhouses. Developers are at it again. Soon four more 8-10 unit apartment buildings will be demolished to make way for another clutch of million dollar town homes between 11th Street and 11th Road off Washington Boulevard. Continue reading

Affordable Housing Master Plan Wildly Unrealistic

According to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Task force, the county’s affordable housing shortage has reached crisis proportions with 7,000 households in need of rent relief and many more forecast. The solution according to the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) is to construct 15,800 units by 2040. This will be accomplished by awarding developers bonus density in return for setting aside a percentage of new apartments as committed affordable units (CAFs). Continue reading

County Board To Trade Rosslyn Park for New Fire Station

It was recently revealed that County Board has agreed to trade county parkland to developer Penzance in exchange for a fire station to be incorporated as part of a mixed use office development at the WRAPS site in West Rosslyn. This deal was done in a secret Letter of Intent (LOI) in January 2013, the existence of which WRAPS itself had been ignorant till a couple of months ago. Continue reading

The Cost of Gentrification

Arlington’s Affordable Housing Task Force has reported that 13,000 affordable units in Arlington County were lost between 2000 and 2013. At that rate the remaining stock of market rate affordable housing will be gone by 2020.

What the task force hasn’t reported is the dollar cost of luxury style densification on other county residents in the form of unmet infrastructure needs.

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Wilson School to be Bulldozed to Make Way for Development

On April 18 Arlington County Board voted overwhelming to demolish historic Wilson School to make way for development at the WRAPS site in West Rosslyn over the objections of the Rosslyn civic leaders and the Arlington Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (AHALRB).

Advocates of restoring the historic Wilson School were told that preservation must make way for other more important uses, among them an office building, a mega school, a fire station and a park.

According to preservationists restoring Wilson School would actually expand green space by eliminating the superstructure built around the original building, reducing its footprint by two thirds.

Citing Barrett Branch Library in Old Town Alexandria where an historic 1937 building was expanded with a new addition in 1995, preservationists indicated that a new high school and the Wilson School on the WRAPS site are not mutually exclusive.

Since a fire station and the Wilson School currently co-exist on the site, there is no reason why a rebuilt fire station could not co-exist with a restored school.

The only use that cannot accommodate the school is the high rise mixed use complex to be constructed by Penzance. County Board acceded to the deal in a secret Letter of Intent (LOI) in January 2013, the existence of which WRAPS itself had been ignorant till now.

Not only was this deal undertaken in a non-transparent manner, it is also imprudent. Consider that at 23 percent Arlington’s office vacancy rate is at an all time high. The Washington Business Journal reports a Rosslyn vacancy rate of 30.8 percent, with more than 2.7 million square feet of empty office space including a 35-story trophy office building at 1812 Moore Street that remains vacant a year and a half after construction.

Across the street from 1812 Moore two new office towers are going up that will glut Rosslyn with empty office space for years to come. No developer in his right mind would contemplate let alone construct office space in Rosslyn at the present time.

County Board can’t tell developers what to do. But it could exercise its power of site plan review to deny a permit that will trade irreplaceable county parkland for a high rise development of questionable value to taxpayers both residential and commercial. County Board would have done Penzance a favor by refusing to sell it the county owned land it needs to further this speculative, imprudent and unwise business venture.

The decision to scrap Wilson School sealed the Penzance deal since preservation of the school interfered with Penzance’s plans for the site. There is poetic justice here because the state of the office market in Rosslyn right now is so dire that any new office building will be hard to rent, and that might prove to be an albatross around the developer’s neck.