Author: Audrey

PRESS RELEASE: Arlington Claims Ongoing Housing Discrimination to Bolster Case for Upzoning

October 12, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 3, I’m concerned that my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, is misusing the racial justice movement to push upzoning on County residents.

In a September 24 County press release, Garvey indicated that the purpose of upzoning, which replaces single family homes with townhouses and duplexes, is to redress exclusionary policies that have locked minorities out of residential neighborhoods. She said: “Without changes these policies will exclude ever more people from being able to live in Arlington.

Unfortunately upzoning will likely have the opposite effect. Studies have shown that due to ever increasing land values no one earning less than area median income will afford the housing built on densified lots. In addition many moderate income residents, including people of color, will be forced to sell when real estate assessments escalate in their upzoned neighborhoods.

In another press release, Garvey emphasized the Board’s resolve to address “historic and ongoing patterns of discrimination,” implying that homeowners in predominantly white, residential neighborhoods are racist.

This drew an angry rebuke from Bill Roos, member of Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF)who reported in a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette that the County has produced no evidence to support ongoing housing discrimination. He said:

The county government’s own summary of housing complaints shows that there were no – zero – complaints of housing discrimination based on race, color or national origin in the latest year for which data is available, 2019.

Bill Roos of ASF

Worse still, both Mary Margaret Whipple and Michelle Winters, who lead the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS), the principal advocate for upzoning Arlington, own homes assessed at over $1 million.

Is densification the solution for their upscale Arlington neighborhoods? If so, do they plan to make a killing by flipping their homes to a developer who will replace them with duplexes? If not, why are they pushing densification on their neighbors?

If elected, I plan to demand answers to these questions from those pandering the illusion that upzoning will solve racial inequities in Arlington County. I will also:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

PRESS Release: Sidewalk Ordinance Repealed

September 21, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 3, I’m concerned that my opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey has lost touch with the voters.

On Tuesday, September 15 Garvey conducted a public hearing on extending an emergency ordinance to permanently ban congregating on some heavily trafficked stretches of county streets. The idea was to curtail COVID spread. Though the County Manager, indicated that the measure had not been enforced, it was already unpopular. Several commissioners, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, and the president of the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association all testified against it.

Nick Freshman, owner of Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon, testified that the mere existence of the ban had discouraged people from patronizing his bar and that permanent adoption would jeopardize his business, as patrons would go elsewhere. Others argued that enforcing a sidewalk ban would lead to selective enforcement, a key aspect of racial injustice, which the County has committed to end.In the end County Board caved to the opposition, All board members except Garvey voted to repeal the sidewalk ordinance. Garvey justified her continued support for the measure by saying that it had encouraged compliance even though the County itself reported that compliance had been “spotty at best.

I don’t think Garvey understands that reopening restaurants and bars with limited seating available inside causes queues to form outside. The only remedy is to open the surrounding streets to pedestrian traffic, as some Clarendon residents have recommended, but the County has thus far refused to do.

If elected, I will recommend sensible solutions to COVID related logistical problems. I will also

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

PRESS RELEASE: Blanket Gun Bans Endanger Lives

September 14, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board on November 3, I’m afraid that the current County Board led by my opponent, Libby Garvey, is endangering the citizens it has sworn to protect. On September 12 it adopted a blanket gun ban on County property and County sponsored events, thus assuring that future targets of gun violence are unable to defend themselves on public property.

Proof of this occurred on May 31, 2019 when a disgruntled employee massacred 12 Virginia Beach colleagues in a municipal building before police finally took him down. One of the dead, Kate Nixon, a supervisory engineer, could have saved her life and those around her if she had taken her husband’s advice and brought her handgun to work to protect herself against the assailant–a guy she’d already written up. But Kate didn’t do this because Virginia Beach bans guns on city property–even those owned by people like Kate, who hold conceal carry handgun permits (CHP).

Instead of acknowledging the probable cause of the Virginia Beach tragedy, local investigations appear to be stymied, and state legislators have quashed efforts to hold municipalities accountable for injuries sustained in gun free zones.

Brady activists who testified at the September 12 County Board hearing, insisted that gun bans are needed to make them feel safe, despite testimony from dozens of gun rights advocates, who argued that feeling safe and being safe are not the same. Their argument that it’s unconstitutional to infringe Second Amendment rights absent proof that doing so will make people more secure also fell on deaf ears. The ban was adopted on a unanimous vote.

The issue isn’t dead, as gun rights advocates have vowed to challenge the gun ban in court. Do you object to spending taxpayer dollars on a costly court battle that could have been averted with a narrow exemption? Do you feel that your own rights are jeopardized when others’ rights are infringed? If so, you are probably looking to unseat my opponent. If elected, I will:

  • Restore the right of CHP holders like Kate Nixon to protect themselves while on public property.
  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms

PRESS RELEASE: Candidate Responses to Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future Questionnaire

ASF QUESTIONS FOR ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD NOVEMBER 3 ELECTION CANDIDATES, August 31, 2020.

Below are County Board Candidate Audrey Clement’s responses to an Arlingtonians For Our Sustainable Future (ASF) candidate questionnaire. These responses are also available on the ASF website.

Question 1 (two parts):
ASF KEY ISSUE: DEVELOPMENT
Cost-Benefit Analysis for New Development – Reflecting a key recommendation of the 2015 Community Facilities Study, our County Board in 2017 directed the Manager to study options for county performance of cost-benefit analyses for new site plan projects. Such analyses, done by many jurisdictions, quantify likely tax and revenue income generation per site plan, as well as potential incremental costs on nearby schools, parks, water/sewer and other community infrastructure. So far, the Arlington County Board appears to have done little or nothing to implement this recommendation. What would you do, if anything, to move forward on this directive?

Population Density – Our county board currently supports very high growth/density rates. (Estimated U.S. census growth from April 2010 to July 2019 was 14.0%. U.S. census density in 2010 was 8,309 people per square mile, the highest of any county in Virginia.) If you are elected, would you support growth/densification at the same, a greater, or lesser pace and why?

Answer(s) for Question #1: Cost-Benefit Analysis and Population Density

Cost-benefit analyses for new projects are routine for most local governments. Arlington County is an exception. Its site-plan impact analysis is perfunctory, at best. Two recent examples come to mind—both reviewed by Arlington’s Transportation Commission, of which I am a member: 1) the Key Bridge Marriott redevelopment site in Rosslyn and 2) and the plan to redevelop Shirlington Village.

Though I spoke in favor of the Marriott design on March 5, I objected that the traffic impacts of three other nearby redevelopment projects were excluded from the Marriott’s traffic impact analysis (TIA): Rosslyn Gateway, Rosslyn Plaza and the Ames Center at 1820 Fort Myer Drive.

These three developments could easily double the traffic at Lee Highway and Fort Myer Drive, an intersection that the TIA says is already congested. A traffic impact analysis that excludes the cumulative impact of all new sources of traffic isn’t real planning.

On July 2, I challenged staff’s claim that Shirlington Village could accommodate even more traffic than generated by its recommended redevelopment proposal — without bothering to prepare a TIA. Staff advised that GLUP studies don’t require TIAs and that a TIA would be produced during the site plan review process. This is why we see no discussion whatsoever of redevelopment impacts on schools, green space, historic structures or public safety in the 200-page Shirlington Village GLUP study. If the County routinely disregards or avoids performing impact and cost-benefit analyses during the initial GLUP planning process, then the cumulative impact of these projects is never quantified or addressed.

If elected, I will insist on impact and cost-benefit analyses for every major site-plan project as well as a study outlining the economic benefits of the 40% population increase that staff intends to effect over the next 25 years.

Question 2 (one part):
ASF Key Issue: DEVELOPMENT

Answers for Question #2: Covid-19 and Missing Middle Housing

Impact of Covid-19 on Missing Middle Policy – With Covid-19 showing few signs of significant decline either nationally or in many states, both anecdotal evidence and recent statistics reveal that people may once again be moving out of central cities and first-tier suburbs to outer suburbs and even rural areas—looking for more room for living and more accessible and abundant green space. At the same time, many employers with an Arlington or Metro area presence are reconsidering the need to have workers concentrated onsite in dense employment centers, facilitating even greater telework and materially reducing the need for home-to-office commuting. Many experts believe that these changes will endure well after the pandemic subsides.

Should the County plan to measure and factor in these apparent trends for Arlington as it pursues greater densification of housing at a time this concept may be losing favor locally and regionally? If not, why not?

Whereas many U.S. economic sectors have contracted since the national pandemic emergency was declared in mid-March, the housing market has rebounded, with previously owned home sales increasing by almost 25% in July. Telework is the new normal for many American workers, who are seeking more space at home instead of easier commutes to the office. Rather than moving into city centers, people are seeking safe havens outside major urban corridors where land and housing costs tend to be lower. Telework will almost certainly continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Most Metrorail lines are still operating well below capacity — even during rush hour. It’s doubtful that Metro itself can sustain current operations after congressional subsidies run out. Having relied on transit-oriented development to attract new residents, Arlington real estate developers and county government must adapt.

Under these conditions, more intense infill development fueled by the so-called Missing Middle upzoning proposal seems risky. Arlington County should acknowledge the speculative nature of the Missing Middle initiative, its inflationary impact on land values and assessments, its questionable benefits for the middle class, and the danger of displacing existing lower and fixed-income households — especially the nearly 17% of homeowners who spend less than $1,000 per month for housing.

Instead, Arlington should incentivize preservation of its existing low-density residential neighborhoods and older (a/k/a more affordable) homes as a hedge against an exodus to the far suburbs by middle-income families seeking better value for their hard-earned dollars and a place to work more safely from home.

Question 3 (one part):
ASF KEY ISSUE: ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Trees – Residential and commercial development are putting major stress on Arlington’s tree canopy, now hovering near 40%. What specific steps would you take to stabilize and expand Arlington’s tree canopy

Answers for Question #3: Tree Canopy

First, based on expert advice, I would be skeptical of claims that Arlington’s mature tree canopy is increasing. County Board members and staff argue just the opposite. Yet the County’s own numbers indicate that the amount of impervious surface has increased from 40% to 45% since 2001. The additional hardscape came from somewhere, and it’s likely from clearcutting and excavating residential lots. It is also estimated that the County itself permitted the removal of at least 1,000 trees in conjunction with construction on a handful of public sites between 2014 and 2020.

Next, I would acknowledge that the loss of tree canopy and related pervious green space amounts to a crisis, because the county is suffering increasingly frequent and severe floods. And its mature tree canopy is the first line of defense against flooding. The County’s latest 10-year CIP allocates $200 million for storm water mitigation (p.11), of which I estimate that $26 million is needed to mitigate runoff due to tree removal from public property. It is estimated that every 1% increase in impervious surfaces accounts for a 3.3% increase in annual flood magnitude.

To discourage the loss of mature trees on public and private land, I would advocate for stronger stormwater management regulations, as permitted by the State Water Control Board; close loopholes in the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act that permit the removal of large numbers of trees in riparian areas; and work to adopt stricter zoning and other regulations to reduce the growth of impervious surfaces.

Question 4 (two parts):
ASF KEY ISSUE: INFRASTRUCTURE

Stormwater Management – Severe flooding of July 2018 and July 2019 caused massive property and environmental damage; climate change will trigger more such events. What should we be doing to factor in the adverse consequences of climate change in Arlington’s stormwater management policies and capital projects, as well in private sector developments?

Schools and Transportation Needs – Planning and growth must also account for infrastructure needs of growing populations, whether schools, water, wastewater, fire/police systems, or transportation systems. Pre-Covid-19, schools and traffic had become major stressors for residents, yet the county takes ad hoc approaches, with school reshufflings and traffic jams increasing without meaningful steps to increase public transport use. Do you believe these are problems and what changes would you endorse?

Answers for Key Issue #4: Stormwater, Schools, Transportation Needs

It’s imperative that public officials acknowledge the connection between mature tree removal and flooding. Arlington Public Schools demolished a grove of mature trees near the new Reed school addition, a few feet from the epicenter of 2019 100-year flood — despite wide publicity. Because of school officials’ ignorance of basic hydrology and the willful ignorance of other officials, Arlington taxpayers will be paying $200 million over the next 10 years for stormwater mitigation. That high cost wasn’t inevitable.

Nor was permitting the demolition of a 100-foot state champion Dawn Redwood in North Arlington in 2018 located in a resource protection area defined by Little Pimmit Run. The County’s approval of the related subdivision not only violated the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA), it also compromised stormwater management for the entire neighborhood. If elected, I plan to enforce CBPA, not look for loopholes to circumvent it.

On transportation needs, educating public officials is also central. County officials argue that traffic congestion isn’t an issue because VDOT traffic data indicate that annual average daily traffic (AADT) has decreased on Arlington’s arterials. This may be true, but VDOT traffic counts don’t measure congestion on neighborhood streets. And levels of service at key intersections has worsened.

As a Transportation Commission member, I can attest to the fact that staff routinely present Transportation Impact Analyses (TIAs) that deny or discount impacts from major developments — even to the point of justifying more traffic, because existing congestion is already so bad more traffic won’t hurt. The County also refuses to factor in the traffic impacts of projects in the development pipeline that have not yet been approved.

Arlington County did well to reduce the minimum parking requirements for developments along the R-B corridor. It must also produce TIAs that factor in the likely traffic impacts of pipeline developments.

Question 5 (one part):
ASF Key Issue: DIVERSITY

Housing Affordability – The county is losing demographic and economic diversity as a consequence of economic and development trends of the past two decades. ASF believes that key zoning decisions of past boards, and plans for denser zoning known as Missing Middle Housing, will only exacerbate these trends. How would you propose to address this challenge during your term in office?

Answers for Question #4: Housing Affordability and Diversity

The County acknowledges that its housing policy has gentrified low-income people out of the County. Yet they disclaim responsibility for the elimination of two thirds of the County’s market-rate affordable rental units over the past 20 years, since it was done by right. Yet on April 30, 2020, the County Board adopted a budget that includes elimination of a tax incentive for landlords who renovate their properties. Instead, Arlington County under the rubric of “Missing Middle” is promoting the myth that densifying Arlington’s residential neighborhoods through upzoning will provide more affordable housing.

The Myth of Missing Middle was challenged by a July, 2020 analysis of the consequences of duplex development on single-family home sites by Wharton professor Jon Huntley, who demonstrated that Arlington property values are already so high that duplex ownership will remain beyond the reach of a household earning 100% of area median income (AMI) in most neighborhoods. This is because new duplexes, which are central to Missing Middle, will compete on price with new single-family homes, which typically start at $1 million and above. Thus, they will be unaffordable to median income earners, who can afford to pay no more than $525,000 for housing.

Instead of Missing Middle densification, I propose to restore and promote the tax incentive for the renovation of privately owned apartment buildings. Not only will this bring a lot of dilapidated buildings up to code, it will do so at a price that is affordable to both landlords and moderate-income tenants.

PRESS RELEASE: One Party Rule, a Prescription for Abuse

August 14, 2020.

As the Independent candidate for County Board on November 3, I’m concerned about the stranglehold the Democratic Party has on county government. Yet many voters plan to vote a straight Democratic ticket in November to maintain the status quo. They are clearly unaware that whenever one party exercises total control of the government, abuses inevitably result.

A clear example of abuse was the July 31 decision by County Board to fine people who congregate on the street in groups of four or more. Initially pleased that the County was finally exercising its own independent emergency power to curtail the COVID crisis, I was quickly disabused by Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, who criticized the move in his ARLnow blog as ill advised.

Slatt argues that the ordinance, which was adopted without input from the public or advisory groups, will lead to selective enforcement, because it penalizes pedestrians on the one hand but encourages out door seating at restaurants nearby.

ARLnow columnist Mark Kelly also weighed in, urging County Board to rewrite the ordinance to indicate whether family members and protesters are included in the ban on congregating in the streets.

Another example of abuse was a recent decision by the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) to oppose a referendum amending the state’s constitution in order to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission for the first time in the state of Virginia. Not only does the amendment enjoy widespread public support, it was adopted by the both houses of the state legislature in two successive years, 2019 and 2020.

Yet the state and local Democratic parties say they oppose the amendment because it doesn’t go far enough. This argument is misleading, because without an independent redistricting commission another partisan gerrymander is inevitable following the 2020 census–this time a Democratic gerrymander, which is evidently what they want.

If you oppose one party control of Arlington County Board, look no further than the Independent candidate in this year’s race. If elected, I will also:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal responsibly with the COVID crisis.
  • Say YES to real social justice reforms and NO to symbolic gestures.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

PRESS RELEASE: When Is a Lie a Lie?

July 27, 2020

As you know, I’m the Independent candidate for County Board on November 3. The Sun Gazette recently reported that as of June 30, the balance in my campaign account was dwarfed by that of my Democratic opponent, insinuating that the race is non-competitive. Overlooked was that as of June 30 I had already spent more than $6,000 canvassing voters and running ads, with campaign season not even officially underway.

Also overlooked by the Sun Gazette was the fact that recently reelected County Board member Christian Dorsey failed to report the return of a $10,000 donation from Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 689, which he’d pledged to return last year. Dorsey was forced from his seat on the WMATA Board in February, 2020 after the Washington Post picked up on an allegation I made while campaigning in 2019 that Dorsey had a conflict interest in accepting massive union donations.

When confronted by Washington Post reporter Pat Sullivan about the unreported union refund, Dorsey amended his campaign finance report to record the expenditure. But the check Dorsey sent ATU 689 was never cashed. Dorsey claims he sent the check in February. The union claims it was never deposited.

According to Sullivan, who quoted an ATU representative: “numerous checks were mailed in a single envelope to the union’s bank. But the envelope was damaged in the mail and never arrived at the bank. The Dorsey check was the only one of the bundle that was lost, [David] Roscow said.”

Come again? How can a bundle of checks that never arrived at the bank get deposited–except for one?

Sullivan went on to report that Dorsey has enough money to cut a new check to repay ATU 689 if he chooses, glossing over the fact that the union rep’s story doesn’t add up.

It’s not that the Washington Post editors aren’t concerned about dishonest politicians and dirty pool. They routinely fact check what Donald Trump says and all but call him a liar. Just the other day the Post ran a column that dubbed Donald Trump the “King of Lies”.

If you are concerned that the Washington Post censures some politicians while looking the other way when other politicians and their cronies are less than truthful, then I’m the candidate for you.
My own modest campaign account is proof that I don’t take money for quid pro quos. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to any party establishment either. If elected, I will:

  • Say YES to affordable housing, and NO to upzoning.
  • Use bond money for needed facilities not boondoggles.
  • Save our parks, streams and tree canopy and stop clear cutting wooded areas as the first line of defense against runoff and flooding.
  • Exercise the County’s own independent authority to deal with the COVID crisis.
  • Say NO to back room deals and YES to the Arlington Way.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience and independence to promote these reforms.

Bike Activist Who Opposes W&OD Trail Widening Supports Mt. Vernon Trail Widening

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on July 21, 2020.

Some who oppose NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD Trail widening in Arlington, support widening the northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail. Longtime bicycle activist Allen Muchnick says the proposed Mt. Vernon Trail widening is not really comparable to NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD widening for multiple reasons:

1) Due to past NPS policies and funding constraints, the Mt. Vernon Trail has generally been paved no wider than 9 feet. For busy shared-use paths, an 11-foot paved width is the minimum recommended. Consequently, much of the Mt. Vernon Trail is clearly substandard and needs work.

2) Unlike NoVA Parks’ proposal to build dual adjacent pedestrian and bicycle paths for the W&OD totaling 22 feet in width, the widened Mt. Vernon Trail would generally consist of only a single path just 11 feet wide. Thus, the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would generally only approximate the current width of the W&OD Trail and would be only about half as wide as NoVA Parks seeks to make the W&OD in Arlington.

3) The northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail in Arlington carries a very high level of weekday trail traffic, about 300 trail users/peak hour. It’s much more heavily used than the W&OD Trail in Bluemont Park.  Because it provides a) a vital route for several long-distance, interstate bikeways, b) foot and bike access to four existing Potomac River crossings, and c) sweeping views of our nation’s capital, the Mt Vernon Trail is one of our nation’s preeminent bikeways.

4) Unlike the W&OD Trail in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail lacks any nearby parallel path, such as the existing Four Mile Run Trail, that could accommodate much of the trail user volumes.

5) Unlike the W&OD Trail that follows Four Mile Run in Arlington, the Mt. Vernon Trail is generally located much farther away from the Potomac riverbank, and the Potomac River is a navigable tidal river, not an eroded urban stream.

6) Although the Mt. Vernon Trail widening would be funded with VDOT money, it is subject to NEPA review because it’s on federal land and VDOT money includes federal transportation funds.

Nevertheless Muchnick endorses Arlington civic activist Bernie Berne’s recommendation that County Board approval for project construction be contingent on review of the environmental assessment by relevant County advisory bodies.

Shirlington Village Slated for Densification

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, July 18, 2020.

I am the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board. I also am a member of the Transportation Commission speaking on my own behalf only. On July 2 the Commission voted unanimously to recommend deferral of a vote on the Shirlington General Land Use Plan (GLUP) study until outstanding transportation issues can be addressed.

While I agree with most of the Transportation Commission report, I disassociate myself from the following:

“While the commission feels confident and satisfied that the automotive trips generated by the additional homes, businesses and offices proposed in the GLUP Study Plus can be readily handled by the existing street network, the comission is concerned that the recommendations and planning for transit, walking and biking are insufficient and will leave Shirlington ill-equipped to support non-automotive modes as it grows under this study.”

Actually I am concerned about inadequate attention given to all modes of transportation in the area, particularly the study’s claim that “even a level of density greater than what would be approved for the Village at Shirlington could be accommodated without a noticeable diminution of service at the key intersections in and around the study area.” 

On July 2, I asked staff how it is so sure of this, given that no Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) had been done. Staff advised that GLUP studies don’t require TIAs. The TIA will be produced at site plan review. This reasoning is circular, since we all know that the adopted GLUP study will provide the rationale for approving several site plans in Shirlington irrespective of the TIA. Circular reasoning also explains why there is no discussion in the GLUP study of impacts on schools, green space, historic structures and public safety—in other words, all the things that matter.

My concerns are heightened by the applicant’s objection to the height limits imposed by the study and the fact that under the GLUP amendments soon to be adopted, the applicant could in fact double the density of the entire neighborhood.

Equally alarming is the applicant’s objection to building preservation. Instead it proposes to preserve facades on a case by case basis. Shirlington Village’s selling point is its historic restaurant district. When those structures are reduced to rubble and replaced with mere facades, its attraction as a destination will disappear.

While full scale densification will surely ruin the Shirlington Village restaurant district, partial densification will also fail unless impacts are addressed.

Arlington Think Tank Says “Missing Middle” Housing Is Unaffordable

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, July 18, 2020.

The following are excerpts from a July 15 statement issued by Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) on the cost of so-called missing middle housing.

Arlington County’s “Housing Arlington” Missing Middle initiative — launched in December 2019 — is premised on the assumption that increasing the supply of housing even in an elastic/high demand market will provide significantly more affordable housing.

In particular, proponents of this initiative have speculated that Missing Middle housing “types” would be affordable for those at or near Arlington’s Area Median Income (AMI) of about $120,000 a year. By rezoning districts that are now limited to detached single-family homes (SFHs) to allow for duplex, triplex or townhouse development, as the country is strongly hinting, more homes might indeed be built — but at great cost in new services, infrastructure, traffic/transportation, school seats, environmental impact and park demand.

This assumption is challenged by a July, 2020 analysis of the consequences of duplex development on SFH sites by Dr. Jon Huntley, a senior economist and Kody Carmody, a communications specialist, both employed at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Huntley and Carmody show that Arlington property and land values are so high that duplex ownership will remain beyond the means of a household earning 100% of area median income (AMI) in all but a few neighborhoods. In order to make them attractive for builders, new duplexes will need to compete on price with new SFHs, which typically start at $1 million and above in all areas of the county. Thus they will be unaffordable to median income earners, who can afford to pay no more than $525,000 for housing. So much for affordable Missing Middle housing.

Arlington’s Storm Water Budget Balloons Due to Runoff Inducing Tree Removal

Comments at Capital Budget (CIP) Hearing, June 30, 2020.

The proposed FY 2021 CIP shows a refreshing change of direction from funding overbuilt boondoggles to paying down basic infrastructure. The County Manager estimates that up to $200 million will be spent on stormwater facilities over the next ten years (p. 11).

No one who witnessed the July 8, 2019 flood would doubt the wisdom of this critical investment. What I quarrel with is the cost. Much of the infrastructure to be constructed consists of low-impact-development (LID) Best Management Practice (BMP) facilities such as: pavers, cisterns, bioretention basins, swales, planters, green roofs and rain gardens.

According to Stormwater Magazine (Table 1), the average capital cost of LID BMPs was around $6.40 per gallon in 2013 or about $7 today.

According to the National Tree Benefits Calculator the average 40 inch hardwood will intercept 19,000 gallons of storm water runoff per year. Assume for the sake of argument that a LID facility needs to capture only ten percent of that amount in one major rain event each year.

Based on the following additional assumptions:

  • 1000 trees recently removed from public property
  • O&M costs at 10% of capital cost
  • system maintenance for ten years

a lowball estimate of the cost of the additional stormwater facilities needed to mitigate runoff due to tree removal is:

  • $13.3 million in capital costs
  • $13.3 million O&M for 10 years of operations, or $26.6 million total.

This may not sound like a lot in a ten-year CIP pegged at $330 million (Appendix A). But it is money that could be better spent on schools, parks, street paving, and walkable streets.[i]


[i] Capital Cost=19,000 gal. runoff/yr. * $7/gal. * .1 capture factor * 1,000 mature trees=$13.3 million

Operating Cost=$13.3 million capital cost *.1 O&M factor * 10 years=$13.3 million

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