Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 4/23/19.
I’m concerned about the lack of specificity of the proposed Best Western site plan. On the one hand, staff says the developer might replace the rental units in the building to be demolished at 1523 Fairfax Drive with new rental units on site. Or he might provide a cash payment to the County to purchase replacement rental units elsewhere.
So which is it? How can County Board make an informed decision about the project without knowing exactly what is going to replace the Ellis Arms Apartments—one of the few remaining market rate affordable apartment buildings in the County?
Also the staff report itself is unclear on the legality of replacing rental units with condo units under the County’s Special Affordable Housing Protection District (SAHPD) policy, which governs this property. According to the report:
. . . the SAHPD designation is intended to replace the existing affordability levels of the property being demolished. The inclusion of up to 80% AMI condominiums would not replace the up to 60% AMI existing affordable rental units at the Ellis Arms (p. 21).Staff Report, Item 41, 4/23/19
An agent for the developer stated upfront at the April 4 Transportation Commission hearing on this matter that Ellis Arms is going to be replaced with condos not rental units.
The developer himself has no illusions. He thinks he’s fulfilled his end of the bargain by making a generous affordable housing contribution. It’s not his problem if the stock of affordable housing in the County is further reduced in the process.
The fact that staff continue to equivocate about the disposition of Ellis Arms suggests to me that the County is acting duplicitously to cover its own tracks. It doesn’t want to let on that this project violates both the spirit of the Affordable Housing Master Plan (AHMP) and the intent of the SAHPD. So it’s fostering an illusion that affordable housing might be saved.