I hope everyone has enjoyed this Juneteenth weekend, for the first time recognized as a Federal holiday. We had a thought provoking and inspiring Juneteenth rally outside the Bozeman Building on Thursday. It was a glorious day with perfect weather. Many of us saw each other in person for the first time since March of 2020. We all recognized the progress made in racial equity, but also the work that still needs to be done. It’s great that Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, but that does not change the fact that many states are moving to limit the ability of people of color to vote and many deny there are any effects of racism in our systems. Despite the acknowledged challenges, I think many of us feel hopeful about the future.
There is so much to celebrate in June. I love seeing the rainbow flag which added another festive and celebratory note to the Juneteenth rally. While much work remains, there has been lots of progress in my lifetime.
Collective Bargaining & Prevailing Wage Provisions
Saturday June 12 was our first in person Board meeting since the pandemic. We advertised two important changes that affect our workforce and labor. We were given permission to take both actions recently by the Virginia General Assembly. The first is a change to the code to allow collective bargaining. Our staff have been meeting with employee groups to determine the scope of collective bargaining. The few remaining disagreements over the code changes include the scope of positions included in collective bargaining and whether discipline should be subject to binding arbitration by a third party. We advertised a broad scope to allow for further discussion and will vote on the changes in July. The second change is to our Purchasing Resolution to adopt Prevailing Wage provisions. This will improve our ability to select contracts with firms that treat workers fairly and are likely to provide better quality work. Previously we have been required to generally take the lowest bid. This change will likely increase the cost of construction, but we believe it will not be significant. Current increases in construction costs are due much more to the rising cost of materials.
1901 N. Moore Street
We took several actions to allow a 423-unit residential building to be constructed at 1901 N. Moore Street. The design is interesting and will help us achieve our goals for the Rosslyn area. It will improve transportation, has many environmental improvements, and will have 12 on-site committed affordable units as well as contribute about $1.5M to our affordable housing fund. The only concerns about the building were that it should have more than the 4% EV and 22% EV ready charging stations; and that there should be more bird-friendly glass. We voted unanimously to approve the building, which more than meets our current requirements and received strong support from our commissions.. However, we all believe electric vehicles will soon be widespread, and I expect more EV charging stations will be standard in the future. I intend to look into bird friendly glass issues more closely for future buildings. We are told that the glass is very expensive, but that there are other ways to prevent birds from crashing into windows. I think we are all concerned about the decline in our bird population.
Tuesday’s meeting went quite late. A number of people came who were concerned about traffic and noise from a proposed farmer’s market at Dorothy Hamm Middle School. While a number of people expressed concern about the effects of the new farmer’s market, the location of the market had been moved on the site to help address these concerns. I think the noise and traffic issues will not be as serious as they think. I have seen the same concerns a number of times over the years, including for the Fairlington Farmer’s Market in my own neighborhood, but the complaints after the markets open are few or none.
The Board also voted to subordinate our loan to The Arlington Housing Corporation (AHC) so they could obtain a new loan for the Serrano Apartments. The Serrano issue is painful and difficult. The building is old and some issues are to be expected. When we asked AHC about what they were doing to fix problems of mold, rodents and more, we were assured they were doing the necessary work. With the pandemic, inspections of individual apartments were difficult. Public areas were taken care of and looked fine to our inspectors. However for the past year or more, residents have complained. When we went to AHC we were assured the complaints were being addressed. Finally senior staff, inspectors and some board members went to the building and visited some apartments. It was clear that problems were severe and long standing and that the reassurances we had been receiving were false.
We spent some time at our meeting questioning AHC representatives. We apologized to residents of the Serrano for trusting AHC far too long. We are working hard to hold AHC accountable for the welfare of their residents, a number of whom we have helped place in other buildings. We are also re-evaluating how we monitor conditions in our affordable housing partners’ properties and looking at ways we might have more leverage over those partners. At the moment our legal relationship is only financial. While we can cancel loans or refuse to subordinate our loans, that would usually lead to bankruptcy and sale of the property… and the loss of all the affordable units. We need some other tools to compel good actions and proper monitoring of conditions by AHC employees and board. AHC’s longtime executive director has retired, which is a good start to making organizational changes. The building management company AHC is using is relatively new and they have hired a new and experienced person to oversee their work. I believe many AHC employees and AHC board members mean well. I am hopeful that this whole sad saga is coming to an end and important lessons learned will keep it from happening again.
On a happier note, I hope everyone will join me in congratulating Yorktown’s Torri Huske who will be swimming in the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. She swims with the Arlington Aquatic Club and it’s delightful to see our hometown athlete doing so well.
I hope this this newsletter is helpful and welcome comments and questions as always.