Fall weather arrived right on time. I hope everyone had a good summer. I was lucky to have a lot of family visits, which were very nice after the past 2 pandemic years.
September’s Board meetings had light meeting agendas with an amendment to the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) for Courthouse West and a discussion of our Restorative Justice grant being the main issues. Also during the month, the Missing Middle Housing (MMH) study took up most of the Board’s time and attention as we held community conversations.
COVID-19 Bivalent Booster Vaccines
Before I move on to the topics mentioned above, I want to let my readers know that Arlington County Public Health is offering the new bivalent boosters. Appointments are available for a free COVID-19 these boosters by appointment only. No walk-ins will be allowed. Additional opportunities to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available in and around Arlington through pharmacies and other medical providers – visit vaccines.gov to find a location near you.
General Land Use Plan (GLUP) for Courthouse West
A request for the properties located on the block bounded by North Danville Street, Clarendon Boulevard, North Cleveland Street and Wilson Boulevard was submitted to amend the GLUP from “Service Commercial” to “High” Office-Apartment-Hotel.
The GLUP amendment discussion focused on whether we should permit building heights of 12 stories, as our staff recommended or of 16 stories as our Planning Commission recommended. Buildings of 4 stories are permitted “by right”, but once someone wants to build above that height; they need to come to the Board for approval. The difference between “by right” and the height allowed is earned by the builder contributing amenities such as the under grounding of utilities, sculpting of the building to make it more attractive and appropriate for the location, affordable housing contributions, and parks. These developer contributions are an important way Arlington is able to help create a built community that is attractive and benefits our residents and visitors.
As we listened to neighbors in the area (some of whom wanted us to limit building height to 6 stories); considered the points made by staff and the Planning Commission; and thought about what is likely to be built in the area over the next 50+ years; a majority of us decided that 14 stories seemed the best height limit.
This does not mean that buildings will be that tall, but it does mean good designs could be that tall at least in part and that Arlington can gain important benefits like those listed above. An important influence on our decision was how close two Metro stations are to the area reducing the need for cars. Please see the Staff Report from our meeting for graphics showing the impact of different heights on the surrounding neighborhood.
Restorative Justice Grant
In the fall of 2019, the County Board adopted recommendations for establishing restorative justice practices in the county’s schools, legal system and through community outreach programs through the The Restorative Arlington Strategic Plan.
As I said at the time: “Restorative Justice breaks destructive and harmful cycles by addressing the needs of everyone involved instead of adding to the harm and trauma with punishment. It values and addresses the needs of people who have been harmed, while ensuring that those responsible for the harm take responsibility for their actions and are accountable.”
Restorative justice is an important technique that can both help victims of crimes achieve a sense of closure and “restoration” while the perpetrators can achieve a sense of repairing the harm they caused. Late last year, Arlington County received $340,000 in funding from the U.S. Justice Department, which we grant to local organizations.
The Board and our staff are working to make our grant awards to non-profits more transparent and competitive and there are a number of groups in Arlington helping in this effort. We awarded funding to a new group after a competitive process. $100, 000 went to Center for Youth and Family Advocacy. The grant was awarded in part for CYFA’s local and multi-pronged approach.
Missing Middle Housing Study (MMHS)
This month Board members began a more intensive community engagement effort on the MMH study with a series of community conversations, both virtual and in person. These have been very well attended and we have been adding many extra sessions to accommodate all who want to participate. As we hear from people, Board members and staff continue to refine their thoughts on possible new MMH zoning to allow housing that is neither single family nor high rise apartments.
Concerns we hear continue to focus on parking, general concerns about density (noise, trash, school crowding, etc.), loss of trees, and the “feel” of neighborhoods changing.
Here is a visual of MMH from “Expanding Housing Choice: The Missing Middle Housing Study: Phase 1 Report – Community Priorities and Concerns and Recommendations for Phase 2, October 2021.” (PowerPoint presentation)
Additional housing options are needed if Arlington is to continue to be home to all kinds of people at different stages of life. MMH will also provide another way for Arlington to increase its supply of housing, which, as the law of supply and demand tells us, can help mitigate housing-price increases simply by increasing supply. While I generally like pilots, I do not believe trying to pilot MMH in only some areas would help us understand if MMH will work as we want.
However, I am considering setting a cap of 20 buildings per year, which is what our staff and studies believe is the maximum we are likely to see if we change our zoning. In my view, that cap would effectively make this a pilot, but one throughout Arlington, not area specific. As MMH zoning is likely to have different effects in different parts of the County, setting such a limit will let us see those effects and better understand how it will work and how we may want to refine the zoning in the future. I have enjoyed the conversations about MMH. I’ve met new people, reconnected with some old friends, and learned more about how residents envision Arlington’s future. There are more community conversations scheduled for October, please sign up at the following link if you would like to attend one: https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Departments/County-Board/Missing-Middle-Housing-County-Board-Engagement?transfer=f97f0c28-2fb5-4a5f-a69f-a905a005c78d
VOTE! Early Voting & Candidates in Arlington for the 2022 Mid-term Elections
All Arlington voters are eligible to vote at any location, and there are 3 locations for early voting: Courthouse Plaza, Madison and Walter Reed Community Centers. Voters need an accepted ID. Please see the attached link for information on IDs, days and hours. https://vote.arlingtonva.gov/Early-Voting
I encourage Arlington constituents to join me in voting for Bethany Sutton for School Board, Matt de Ferranti for County Board, and Don Beyer for Congress as well as supporting all the bonds.
As always, feel free to respond to this email with questions, thoughts or suggestions.