PRESS RELEASE: More Densification Planned for Ballston

Most people view development as a good thing. But too much of a good thing is bad, and that’s what’s happening to Ballston, where densification has become the new mantra. According to community activist Suzanne Sundburg, who has tracked the greater Ballston planning pipeline from a variety of public sources, about 3,000 new residential rental units have been built or are under construction there.

Major projects underway include the redevelopment of the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site on N. Glebe Road (732 residential units, 965 parking spaces). Other Ballston housing projects completed, under construction or planned include:

The .6 acre park planned for the Harris Teeter / Mercedes site is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the more than 1,000 residents who will live there. In fact .6 acres is the average size of just 3 single family home lots. Nearby Mosaic Park will have to serve the recreation needs of the thousands of others moving into the units listed above.

A New Planning Approach Needed

Considering the growing congestion at major intersections such as Wilson Blvd. and Glebe Road in Ballston; schoolyards overflowing with trailers; acres of new flood inducing surfaces from infill development; Arlington County Government’s planning paradigm falls well short of the kind of reality-driven planning that Arlingtonians deserve.

As an Independent candidate for County Board, I don’t think we need buzzwords that local officials bandy about like “Car-Free Diet,” “Affordable Housing,” “Smart Growth” and “Urban Village”. We need comprehensive studies that include the fiscal and practical costs of increasing Arlington’s population.

If elected, I will insist on a new approach to redevelopment. In addition, if elected, I will:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 15-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: Infill Development a Factor in July 8 Flood

In the wake of the catastrophic July 8, 2019 flood that inundated neighborhoods throughout Arlington, County government responded proactively. The County:

  • declared an emergency;
  • cleaned up debris;
  • posted information for affected residents and businesses on its website; and
  • pledged to re-prioritize needed investments in storm water infrastructure.

These measures were welcome and necessary. Yet my Arlington County Board opponents refuse to acknowledge that massive infill development contributed to the flood by destroying mature tree canopy and increasing runoff-inducing impervious surface.

In fact they actively dispute the loss of tree canopy throughout the County and attribute increased impervious surface to by right developments that they can’t stop.

Westover Park Area Ravaged by Runoff Induced Flood

What my opponents don’t tell you is that they won’t conduct a public hearing on a 2016 citizen petition to preserve the remaining Westover garden apartments as historic. Their refusal to do so has resulted in the demolition of dozens of apartments and surrounding trees in Westover.

Anyone who believes that tree removal and exposed surface at these construction sites did not contribute to the flood should look at this submerged vehicle adjacent to Westover Park downhill from the denuded development site on July 8.

Also neither County Board nor the School Board acknowledge that their own construction activities contributed to massive flooding on July 8. Community activist Suzanne Sundburg has documented that in just 9 development projects on public land between 2014 and 2018, the County lost over 900 mature trees. Clear cutting has occurred at virtually all school construction sites, Lubber Run and Donaldson Run. More is on the way, as the County pushes for infill development and overbuilt parks.

If elected to County Board, I will lobby to stop clear cutting County and privately owned land by insisting on strict adherence to the Arlington Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, which bars runoff-inducing developments near Potomac River tributaries.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • 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 15-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.

County Board Dismisses Safety Concerns of 5G

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 7/16/19

Here are some concerns raised by civic activist Suzanne Sundburg on deployment of 5G on Small Wireless Facilities (SWF), which Arlington County Board approved on July 16.

“Whereas the county’s background resources and permit information are interesting, they don’t begin to address the public safety aspect. The FCC’s radiation limits have not been updated since 1996. These limits and most prior research are based on the thermal effects of radiation, which isn’t necessarily applicable to nonionizing radiation like millimeter-wave and submillimeter-wave radiation. Simply because millimeter wave radiation cannot displace electrons from atoms or molecules does not make people’s exposure to it safe.

“An understanding of the risks of physical harm resulting from millimeter wave radiation is just beginning to emerge. These 5G antenna arrays will utilize millimeter waves in roughly the 30 to 100 gigahertz frequency range. Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, which pose greater risks to human health. Scientists readily acknowledged that there is too little research on the 5G millimeter wave radiation and antennas to assure the public’s safety and are only just now starting to study the effects of it. To date, the results don’t look good.

“Unfortunately, we cannot rely on federal agencies to protect the public. The FCC, in particular, is essentially captive to the telecommunications industry.

“In fact in February 2019, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal took the FCC and FDA to task for expediting the 5G network’s rollout without having any research to document its safety.

“Likewise, the State of Virginia appears to have punted, providing no additional safety measures/standards or monitoring assistance.

“The telecommunications industry itself has consistently attempted to downplay the radiation health risks of existing technology — risks that are documented by legitimate scientific research.

“Given that:

  • these millimeter-wave 5G arrays will emit radiation 24×7;
  • there is no way for us to protect ourselves from it, and
  • vulnerable populations will be at higher risk

“I don’t believe it’s unreasonable to ask the County how it intends to mitigate that risk. How does it intend to monitor the radiation being emitted in this uncontrolled scientific experiment using us as unwitting human test subjects.”

PRESS RELEASE: County Board Authorizes a Pay Grab

Did you know that on June 18 Arlington County Board voted to increase its salary cap from $57,337 to $89,851 for members and from $63,071 to $95,734 for the chair–for an increase of more than 50 percent?

When these caps are translated into actual pay increases, Arlington County Board members will have awarded themselves salaries on a par with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which pays its members $95,000 and its chair $100,000.

As a candidate for Arlington County Board myself, I think this is excessive, because at $4.6 billion Fairfax County has more than 3 times the $1.4 billion operating budget of Arlington County and presumably 3 times as much work to do.

Arlington County Board members are evidently unconcerned about whether their actual work load justifies the salary increase, because they have a guaranteed revenue stream in the form of rising tax assessments.

Double Digit Real Estate Tax Increases On the Way

According to a June 13 report from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, housing price appreciation is expected to reach 17.2 percent in Arlington this year due largely to Amazon’s decision to open a new headquarters to Crystal City. This means a 17.2 percent increase in real estate tax assessments for everyone.

It’s up and out for those who can’t pay their tax bills. If you want to stay in Arlington and are concerned about whether you can afford to do so, then you should consider an Independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will seek tax relief for people priced out of their homes.

In addition, if elected, I pledge to:

  • Say NO to more tax rate increases and stop the exodus of businesses and 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 15-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.

County Board Bids to Boost Pay

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, June 18, 2019

Note: After hearing from the public, the Board voted to increase its salary caps from $57,337 to $89,851 for members and from $63,071 to $95,734 for the chair–for an increase of more than 50 percent. When these caps are implemented, Arlington County Board members–with one quarter the budget to oversight–will have awarded themselves salaries equivalent to Fairfax County Board.

I’ve reviewed the comparative salary data in the staff report for item 36 [the proposed pay increase] using data published on the Internet, and I can vouch for their accuracy. However, one important data vector is missing, namely the budgets of Arlington and its neighboring jurisdictions.

Budgets are critical in estimating board member salaries, because higher budgets are associated with more work. Attached is a table showing Arlington board member salaries and operating budgets relative to those of Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Montgomery County and DC. It shows DC with a $13 billion budget as compared with $4.64 billion for Fairfax County and $1.4 billion for Arlington. The corresponding board chair salaries are: $210,000, $100,000 and $60,662.

The question is whether Arlington board members are compensated fairly relative to their peers and if not, how much additional compensation is needed.

To answer this question, I did a least squares regression analysis with the Excel LINEST function using operating budget to estimate salary. I then used the coefficients produced by the regression analysis to predict Arlington board member and chairman salaries. The predicted salary for Arlington board members is about $57,000 and that of the chair is about $58,000. Admittedly the data are sparse, producing large standard errors. Nevertheless these numbers are in line with the Option (1) Raising the salary cap for Board Members to $61,034 and for the Board Chair to $67,464.

Therefore I recommend Option (1) as consistent with past practice and objective analysis based on local jurisdictional operating budgets.

Scorched Earth Tactics Are Not Progressive

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti’s upset victory over incumbent Theo Stamos for Commonwealth Attorney in the June 11 primary has the Democratic Party spinning the narrative that a “progressive” was elected Arlington County prosecutor.

I don’t think so. What is progressive about spending over $600,000 of out of state money to smear a dedicated local official?

What is progressive about doing so at the behest of a vindictive former governor with a personal agenda?

What is progressive about conducting a media blitz to discredit a fellow Democrat by distorting her record with misrepresentations, innuendo and outright lies? When it comes to malicious distortion and outright lies, Parisa outdoes Trump himself.

How Can A Prosecutor Enforce the Law When She Can’t Tell the Truth?

One of Parisa’s false claims is that in 1999 Theo Stamos prosecuted as felons two 10 year old students for putting soap in their teacher’s water bottle. The truth, though, was far from the tale that was spun:

  • Theo Stamos was not the Commonwealth’s Attorney at the time nor was she the prosecuting attorney working on the case;
  • the “soap” that adulterated the teacher’s drinking water was a chemical agent, ethyl alcohol;
  • the teacher, who sought medical treatment after drinking the contaminated water and filed criminal charges against the youths, stopped teaching as a result;
  • After a brief period of probation, the charges against the youths were dismissed entirely

Another Parisa lie–prompting an unprecedented public rebuke from the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD)–had it that an officer who sustained blunt force trauma and 60 stitches from being struck with a jagged metal pipe was guilty of police brutality for killing his assailant in self defense.

Parisa was unfazed. She responded to the ACPD rebuke by issuing another lie about Theo.

Decriminalization of Marijuana by the Courts: a Pipe Dream

If you’re looking for an impartial county prosecutor, the prospects don’t look too good right now. But not to worry. Potheads are delighted that Parisa won’t be prosecuting anyone for possession of marijuana.

Unfortunately that illusion went up in smoke when the state supreme court ruled in May against a Norfolk prosecutor seeking to dismiss charges against some defendants charged with pot possession. The result? Until the General Assembly decriminalizes pot, Parisa cannot decline to prosecute marijuana possession without the consent of the court.

An Independent Alternative to Slash/Burn Electioneering

Are you tired of the interference of national and state political leaders in local politics? Do you reject their use of PAC money from billionaires to wage smear campaigns against opponents and corrupt elections in the process? Then you should consider an Independent alternative.

If elected to County Board, you can be sure that I will advocate against outside interference in local elections.

In addition, if elected, I pledge 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 15-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.


Dawn Redwood Report Greenwashes Development in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 6/15/19

Last week Arlington County issued a long awaited report on how it approved the demolition of a 75 year old Dawn Redwood to make way for the redevelopment of a property on North Ohio Street located in a Resource Protection Area (RPA) in North Arlington.

The County’s Chesapeake Bay Ordinance expressly prohibits redevelopments that increase the amount of runoff inducing impervious surface in RPAs. The report claims that “there was no increase in impervious cover.” So the redevelopment was “allowable”.

Anyone familiar with the North Ohio Street site knows that the McMansion built on it dwarfs the original home that was demolished along with the Dawn Redwood in 2018. How could this oversized structure NOT generate more runoff?

Maps contained in the report, show that the developer, Richmond Homes, subdivided the lot, placing the old property on a parcel inside the RPA perimeter and the new property on an adjacent parcel just outside the RPA. He then demolished the old home along with the redwood, eliminating all impervious surface on that parcel. By this sleight of hand, the new oversized home actually occupies less of the RPA buffer than the original.

A neat trick, one that not only enriches Richmond Homes, but also establishes a precedent for demolishing homes and trees on properties throughout the County that were previously off limits to redevelopment.

If you live adjacent to an RPA and want to make a killing on the sale of your home, rest assured. The County is open for business. If you are the neighbor of such a homeowner, you might also want to sell when the additional runoff impacts your property. As for the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance itself? Well that’s a dead letter.

Detached ADUs Will Upzone Arlington Neighborhoods

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 5/18/19

Here is Suzanne Sundburg’s take on detached affordable dwelling units (ADUs).

“This is the first step to eliminate single-family zoning. Any land use attorney worth his/her salt should easily be able to get a judge to determine that properties with independent/ detached accessory dwellings are 2-family lots, which does not meet the standard for single-family zoning, as staff contends. I do believe staff understands this weakness and these changes are part of a deliberate strategy to eliminate many restrictions in the remaining low-density areas, which also happen to be where most of our dwindling mature tree canopy remains.

“This is not about affordable housing; this is about enabling developers and builders to line their pockets by opening up more buildable lots that heretofore have been beyond reach. Don’t take my word for it.

“Here’s what the Federal Reserve has to say about upzoning in existing low-density neighborhoods in a 2018 study highlighted in Forbes magazine:

“The Fed report suggests that housing will be much the same:

The implication of this finding is that even if a city were able to ease some supply constraints to achieve a marginal increase in its housing stock, the city will not experience a meaningful reduction in rental burdens.

Add 5% more housing to the most expensive neighborhoods and the rents would drop only by 0.5%.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2018/08/03/additional-building-wont-make-city-housing-more-affordable-says-fed-study/#16c6e4f1218b

“The inflation of land values is easily predictable, as is the increase in real estate taxes. Staff and board members will finally be able to force older, long-time homeowners off of their properties while trying to shield themselves from blame for their continued economic cleansing of Arlington. The truly poor (who haven’t be able to wrangle a subsidy) have been forced out. Now it’s middle-class’s turn.

“This is what you get when you permit developers and real estate interests to control public policy from the shadows.”

Boathouse Facility Will Add More Congestion To Rosslyn

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 5/21/2019

I came down with Potomac Fever when I acquired a brand new Folbot folding kayak in 1997, and I’ve been paddling on the Potomac ever since. While there is no cure for Potomac Fever, paddling alleviates the symptoms. So I was enthusiastic about National Park Service (NPS) plans to construct a boathouse in Arlington.

Nevertheless I’m concerned about the health of the Potomac, specifically the impact of dredging the channel between the proposed dock and Teddy Roosevelt Island and traffic congestion in the nearby. The Gravelly Point alternative has neither of these impacts. Yet NPS rejected it because of occasional strong river currents and lack of access to public transportation at that location.

An experienced rower recently advised me that the Rosslyn location is unsuitable for rowing teams, because the channel between the Rosslyn site and Teddy Roosevelt Island is too narrow to maneuver large boats. Also, while river currents are a factor for small craft at Gravelly Point, they have little impact on large sculls. Likewise since high school rowing teams would be transported to Gravelly Point by bus, the lack of immediate access to transit is immaterial, and ample parking already exists for anyone who drives.

The Rosslyn alternative will put an ancillary administrative facility on a wooded area at the intersection of Lee Highway and Lynn Street near Key Bridge. This facility, the need for which has never been demonstrated, will exacerbate both congestion and runoff in a resource protection area and turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour.

Today’s vote to approve an agreement with NPS to construct the Rosslyn facility is strictly pro forma. The train has left the station, but only because Department of Parks and Recreation never saw a park it didn’t want to pave over, and County Board never saw a boondoggle it didn’t want to buy. Nevertheless I think that those who live and work in Rosslyn should know that there was a reasonable alternative to more traffic congestion at Key Bridge and further degradation of the Potomac River.

Toll Cheating Drives Up Tolls on I-66

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 5/18/19

I am speaking on behalf of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

On May 2, 2019, VDOT Tolling Division Administrator David Caudill and NOVA Assistant District Administrator Monica Bhatia provided the Arlington Transportation Commission with a performance report on tolling operations on I-66 Inside the Beltway since their inception in December, 2017.

The good news is that headway on the corridor has improved with east bound speeds between Route 7 and Lee Highway increasing 30.2% from 41.4 mph to 53.9 mph and west bound speeds between Route 7 and I-495 increasing 25.4 percent from 40.1 mph to 50.3 mph.

The bad news is that tolling enforcement operations by Virginia State Police (VSP) are lax. On May 9, 2019, Caudill further reported:

“since December 4, 2017, Virginia State Police troopers have issued 258 citations eastbound and 615 citations westbound. 91 citations have been written between 7:30AM and 8:30AM.”

91 peak hour HOV citations in the 356 tolling days during the 74 week reporting period reduces to only about one peak hour citation for every four days of tolling or 0.256 HOV citations per peak-toll-price hour.

A 99% HOV-compliance rate among the I-66 ITB facility’s 14,000 daily HOV vehicle trips would equate to 140 toll-cheating trips/day or 17 citations per toll-price-hour. Yet actual HOV citation numbers are a fraction of that.

Significantly lower numbers of citations on eastbound I-66 further indicate that toll cheating contributes to higher peak hour toll prices documented in the a.m. on inbound I-66. Absent an adequate enforcement regime, tolls will continue to spike on eastbound I-66, fueling political opposition to the program, despite its success at reducing congestion.