BVSCA Letter to County Board, June 23, 2000

To: Barbara Favola, Chairman, and
Arlington County Board Members
2100 Clarendon Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22201

Subject: BVSCA Position on Agenda Item 7, CIP Proposal for $ 5 million in FY 2001 Bond Financing for GMU-Arlington Campus

RE: Arlington County Board Meeting of June 24, 2000, Agenda Item 7, Capital Improvement Program - FY 2001 to FY 2006, page 6, under Section Titled Regional Contributions, Higher Education, it reads:

"The proposed FY 2001-2006 CIP includes $5.0 million in FY 2001 bond financing for George Mason University's (GMU) Arlington campus located in the Virginia Square Metrorail station area. The $5.0 million in County bond funds would enable the County to assist the University in financing subsequent phases of the redevelopment of GMU's Arlington campus. The County had previously provided $3.0 million through voter approved bond funds as the County's contribution to the completed GMU's Phase I project. Last spring the Virginia General Assembly approved $2.0 million for the design of phase 2."

Dear Chairman Favola & Board Members:

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, in whose neighborhood GMU is located, has had longstanding concerns about the inadequate number of on-site parking spaces planned for the George Mason University-Arlington campus.

Consistent with the Association's previously adopted positions on GMU's expansion plan in April 1994, and the more recent positions we adopted at our April 2000 membership meeting, this is to convey for the record that our Civic Association does not favor the Board including in the CIP provisions for further support for GMU, at this time. In addition, when you consider the Bond referenda for placement on the year 2000 ballot, we request that no further bond referenda in support of GMU be placed on the ballot until GMU has presented a written plan, acceptable to our Civic Association, which details the commitments they have made for site acquisitions for purposes of providing the off-site parking that is a component of the approved 1994 plans, and which also details their plans to have GMU students reduce the number of curbside spaces they currently use, and are projected to use, during the evening peak-time attendance which is 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. The analysis which underlies the Association's position, which was prepared by our GMU Expansion Committee which worked on the issue from 1992 through 1994, is detailed at great length in our March/April 1994 Newsletter, a copy of which is attached, and is available on our web site at: ""

In his May 24, 2000 Inter-Departmental Memorandum to Mr. Fisette on George Mason Parking, the County Manager completely ignores, or mis-apprehends, the plain language and explanations provided by GMU's own traffic and parking consultants. In his answer to DeAndra Beck's question one, the Manager attempts to minimize the effect of student headcount on the daily peak occupancy period's actual parking demand.

In a July 29, 1992 GMU analysis of their own consultant's 1992 Parking study, GMU's Office of Institutional Planning and Research indicated that, and I quote, "at any one time the most students ever present on campus was ... approximately 40% of the headcount." The significant language in identifying an actual demand figure is GMU's use of the words "at any one time." The Manager completely over looks GMU's own written explanations of anticipated student parking demand. Further, in JHK and Associates 1994 Parking Report, they indicated that after the campus is fully built out they expect 26.5% of the student head count will be on campus during the evening peak occupancy, which will occur between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Thus, what GMU's own parking and traffic consultant was telling you was that 2,650 of the 10,000 student headcount would be on campus after full build-out, at the same time, during the evening peak occupancy period. Further, JHK indicated that 84.4%, or 2,237 students would arrive by automobile.

There will be no further site plan hearings on GMU. Your plans, approved in 1994, call for GMU to construct 1,100 parking spaces on-site in their garage, and to secure contractual commitments for the use of 490 off-site spaces. GMU has recently conceded that they will not be able to secure the use of third parties' off-site parking spaces and has made vague indications that they will attempt to acquire nearby parcels of land on which 500 to 550 additional garage parking spaces will be constructed.

Since some of you on the Board may not be familiar with the scope of the problem that will occur when the Campus is fully built out and occupied, one feature of GMU's over all plan of operation summarizes the impact that will occur. When GMU's campus is fully built out, during the evening peak attendance period, there will be more than twice the number of vehicles seeking on-street parking in our neighborhood as there are curbside spaces.

As GMU's Mr. Stanley Taylor told us, at our May 2000 meeting, GMU has no current plans and does not intend to take any action to encourage those who drive to campus to use its parking facilities. Based on its survey of students, faculty, staff and training class participants, GMU's traffic consultant concluded that there will be no appreciable change in the arrival mode to Metro because Metro is not accessible or unavailable to the large majority of the campus population. The current use of all of the curb-side parking on Fairfax Drive, and in the street area between St. Charles Church and the automobile lots that border Wilson Boulevard, when added to the number of students who use the Phase 1 garage, clearly indicate that there has been no appreciable shift from the automobile arrival mode.

Consequently, at this time, the Civic Association requests that the Board not go forward with CIP support, or a Bond referendum for GMU, until GMU has submitted a written plan of action detailing the locations that it will acquire and the number of spaces that it will construct to meet the demand of the 2,237 students who its traffic consultant identified will be on campus, at one time, during the evening peak occupancy period. We would like to have this plan before Phase II construction begins.

For the Board's information, in dialogue with a number of groups, the Civic Association has identified the street location between St. Charles Church and the automobile lots which border Wilson Boulevard, as a suitable location for an above ground parking garage that could be used to alleviate parking demands in the Virginia Square and Clarendon areas. We have begun the process of coordinating interest in a garage for this location with representatives of St. Charles Church.

Sincerely yours,

Ben Axleroad, Vice President
Ballston-Virginia Square
Civic Association

The BVSCA Home Page