Contrary to police and government statistics on crime, our survey shows that concern over crime in the neighborhood was growing. The number of respondents marking the categories; "concerned" and "critical problem" was up (64% to 71% and 12.5% to 13% respectively) when compared to our almost identical questions in last year's survey. Furthermore, impatience with aggressive panhandling was apparent (54% expressing concern and 13% critical problem) and an overwhelming number (86%) called for an aggressive panhandling ordinance.
There was also strong and growing sentiment against the County creating developer incentives for affordable housing with 86% of the survey respondents indicating that they were opposed this year, versus only 54% of the respondents indicating opposition to additional spending on affordable housing in last year's survey. Subsidized housing was also frowned upon (64% opposed) as were homeless shelters (52% opposed to additional spending). There was almost an equally strong reaction against spending more County money on a proposed Day-Time Drop-In Homeless Shelter in our community with 78% of the respondents indicating that they would not support such projects. Only a small percentage of those completing the survey expressed a willingness for the County to spend money for these issues: affordable housing (14%), subsidized housing (15%), and the homeless (22%). County government was also troublesome to many survey takers, with 73% opposed to the current County staff size and 61% concerned with the growing size of the County payroll. Street traffic and congestion was also pointed to with concern by another 85% of respondents and 37% felt that on-street parking was a critical problem. Another 69% of the respondents expressed worries over commercial land use development in their neighborhood.
Of those responding to the survey, almost 90% owned their own homes, 12% were from single standing homes, 34% were from townhouses, and 54% occupied condominiums or apartment buildings. At our next Membership meeting on Wednesday, November 30, 1994, at the 2nd Floor Conference Room of the Arlington Renaissance Hotel above the Ballston Metro Station, we will discuss the results of our October 1994 Membership survey.
Also, the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association is sponsoring its second annual Christmas party for BVSCA members and guests on Wednesday, December 14, 1994, from 7:30 - 11:00 p.m., at the Monticello Room of The Jefferson, 900 N. Taylor Street, Arlington, VA. (See page 17 of this Newsletter for details about the Christmas Party.) Please make your reservations early. Hope to see you at our next Membership meeting and the BVSCA Christmas Party.
But first, the "Affordable Housing Crisis" myth must be examined. Our local government relies on facts and figures that are often out of date and questionable to make its case for more subsidized housing--such as one assumption (used by one County housing official at a prior meeting), that jobs are growing at a much faster rate in our County than are housing units. But there is certainly as much insecurity about jobs today as there is about housing in our area. If anyone doesn't realize that we have a problem with businesses moving out of our County just please read our last Newsletter which discusses our "Economic Crisis." It is also a fact that there are many vacant apartments for rent and purchase in our County and many apartment owners who would gladly offer an affordable rent to see them occupied.
There are other troublesome features concerning this "housing crisis," as follows:
Housing Priorities For Whom?
Top Ten Reasons Businesses (and Residents) Want to Stay in Arlington County:
The owners are requesting that the currently-required parking be reduced from 315 to 237 spaces, and that shared parking be used between Stafford Place I and II. This proposed reduction (which would result in 25% fewer spaces) would be accomplished by eliminating one level of parking. The reason cited for this request is that currently, the National Science Foundation, the occupant of Stafford Place I, is using very little of the parking in their building. The owners are conducting a study to determine exactly how much parking is going unused. They feel the number could be as high as 60%.
While some spaces in Stafford Place I are not currently being used, we need to remember that the National Science Foundation is a tenant of the building, not a permanent occupant. At some point a new tenant (or tenants) could occupy the building and need all of the building's parking, and perhaps more. Also, the needs of the NSF could change, and they would need the parking.
Also, we need to remember that within the next 10 to 15 years, the surface parking in Ballston will disappear due to the construction of already-planned buildings. The only parking available to residents, office workers, and retail customers will be underground in the garages of the site-planned buildings. In order to insure an adequate supply of this parking, we need to have all the required spaces constructed.
Further, we need to remember that the Stafford Place II site is unbuilt and could be sold to another developer, who might not wish to honor the shared parking arrangement. It is equally possible that the building could be constructed as a residential building instead of commercial, as is currently planned. Either scenario could result in the need for more parking than is currently being requested by the owners. At our November 30, 1994 Membership meeting, we have invited representatives of the Evans Corporation to present their proposed site plan amendment and answer any of our members' questions. This site plan amendment request has been deferred for 60 days, and should come before the Planning Commission in December and the County Board in January, 1995.
The developer is currently proposing that the units be arranged in three courtyard groups with vehicular access from North Vernon Street. The units will be brick-faced and three levels tall. Each unit will have a garage and the end-units will have double garages. The balance of the required parking spaces will be provided in the courtyard areas. Fencing and landscaping will surround the entire site.
This request came before the Site Plan Review Subcommittee on November 1. The group liked the proposed appearance of the units and their interior configuration. Questions were raised, however, about the orientation of the units and the amount of parking being provided. It was thought by some members of the committee that at least one of the units be eliminated and the units be put into two U-shaped groups instead of three separate groups. A proposal for a linear arrangement along Vernon Street was also suggested. The applicant indicated that they would consider the suggestions.
Members were also concerned that although the requirement for two off-street parking spaces was being met, there was no parking provided for guests. The developer will be dedicating land to the improvement and widening of North Vernon Street which is to become one-way upon the completion of the development. Hence, there would be some parking available on the street. However, because of the townhouse development on the east side of Vernon, existing street spaces are heavily used. At our November 30, 1994 Membership meeting, we have invited representatives of the Harmon Company to present their proposed project and answer any of our members questions.
This project will be reviewed again by the Site Plan Review Subcommittee on Tuesday, November 29, 1994. The Planning Commission will then consider the proposal at their December 19, 1994 meeting, and it will go to the County Board on January 7, 1995. All interested citizens are invited to attend and give their thoughts. If you have any questions or comments, please call either Tom Miller, Arlington County Planning, 358-3525, or Nancy Iacomini, Ballston NCAC Representative, 525-7125.
We received 70 responses to our written Membership survey. Of our responding members, 62% oppose the proposed plan. The most often stated reason for opposition to the proposed plan was the potential for an overall increase in density and heights in the area between the west side of the N. Quincy Street extension and the east side of NH. Randolph Street, and the spill over impacts that will be felt in our neighborhood. Our members expressed support for the view that the tallest buildings, in the area covered by the Concept Plan, should front on the east and west side of the N. Quincy Street extension. Extending potential building heights to 12 stories along the east side of N. Randolph Street is not supported as the structures immediately across, on the west side, of N. Randolph Street are three and four stories tall.
Consistent with and extrapolated from the Membership comments, the following two detailed points are expressed by the Executive Committee. First, with respect to the "Note 14. Development of this area shall be consistent with the North Quincy Street Concept Plan approved by the County Board on December 10, 1994," which is stated in the staff's November 17, 1994 draft report on this matter, the Executive Committee believes this to be a mistake and the source for future controversy between the County and the development community and other land owners. The reason is simply that zoning sets development rights and property owners believe that that is the legal authority that they need to look to, not a "Concept Plan." While there have been a proliferation of so called "Concept" plans over the recent planning time frame, it has always been our Civic Association's view that the concept planning for the two Metro station areas within our neighborhood were to be properly reflected in the Ballston Sector Plan, and in the Virginia Square Sector Plan. Thus, there is no need for this proposed Concept Plan. Should there be a genuine need for these proposals, the Executive Committee believes the proper process is to follow the procedures for amendment to the two Sector Plans, not to graft onto them in this ad hoc and confusing manner.
Second, with respect to the proposed amendment to the General Land Use Plan to add a triangle symbol to indicate the general location of open space to be bounded by the extended N. Quincy Street, Wilson Boulevard, North Pollard Street and 5th Street North, the Executive Committee does not support concentrating all of the open space on the east side of the extended North Quincy Street. As one of the neighborhoods that will be most severely affected by the flow through effects of the future development to occur in that area, the concentration of the open space, in the location proposed in the staff report, serves to more severely burden our neighborhood. At a minimum, a portion of the proposed open space should also be located on the west side of the extended N. Quincy Street. This, more equitable approach, would serve to moderate some of the density effects that would be more directly felt by the Ballston-Virginia Square neighborhoods. Our position on the proposed North Quincy Street Concept Plan was provided to the Arlington County Planning Commission for their meeting of November 21, 1994. The proposed North Quincy Street Concept Plan is to be considered by the Arlington County Board on December 10, 1994. All interested citizens are invited to attend and give their thoughts.
We received 70 responses to the survey with 19 respondents indicating support of the proposed project, 29 respondents indicating no support, and 22 respondents indicating no answer. Because of the BVSCA members' concerns and suggested modifications and assurances about the proposed project, the Civic Association recommended that the Arlington County Planning Commission consider favorably the BVSCA's requested provisions to limit the program's upper enrollment at this facility to 20 students, and not the 30 students proposed by staff, as part of the use permitting requirements and their recommendations to the Arlington County Board. The Arlington County Planning Commission voted to approve the staff's proposed program of 30 students with 3 members of the Commission voting in opposition. On November 19, 1994, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to approve the staff's proposed New Directions Program.
The Arlington Blue Top Cab plans to build a group of 5 townhouses at 1016 N. Randolph Street, the lot known as the Kelly House, and build an underground garage under these townhouses for the specific purpose of repairing their taxicabs only. The rest of the property will be used as parking for the townhouses.
The Arlington Blue Top Cab's owner, Mr. Farouq Massoud, indicated that the primary contributing factor to the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project is the Quincy Street extension project, which will force their existing taxicab repair facility in the path of the street extension to be relocated. One of the members present inquired whether Arlington County will be providing any financial assistance to the Arlington Blue Top Cab, because it was the Arlington County Board on their own motion that approved this street extension and substantial increased density at the taxpayers' expense. In response, the owner of Arlington Blue Top Cab stated that no assistance has been provided.
The project owner was asked by one of the members present whether they plan to build the commercial component before the residential units, because it is generally the practice in our community that the residential component be built first. The owner stated that they plan to build the commercial component before the residential units are completed due to limited capital.
Given that (1) the existing Arlington Blue Top Cab repair facility is located in the path of the proposed Quincy street extension and will have to be relocated; (2) Arlington County is not providing financial assistance for small businesses to relocate because of the Board's approval of the street extension; and (3) this company has been an outstanding neighbor and has assisted our community in many ways, Secretary Ragland proposed a motion that the BVSCA support the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project. This company has been an outstanding neighbor and has assisted our community in many ways by (1) providing taxi-cab service, (2) participating in the Neighborhood Watch Program vis-a-vis their taxi-cab drivers who routinely contact our local police if they see any suspicious activity, and (3) limiting the number of taxis parked at their commercial facility. The members present at the meeting voted strongly in support of this motion to support the Arlington Blue Top Cab project. Only one member voted in opposition to the project.
Since the last Membership meeting, the civic association has formally recommended that the Site Plan Review Committee consider favorably the BVSCA's motion in support of the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project and recommended that the Arlington County Planning Commission do the same. Also, we recommended that Arlington Blue Top Cab be granted an exception to the (1) normal practice of developing the residential component first before the commercial and (2) the normal residential commercial ratio for RC zoning because of the hardship it would entail to rebuild the existing Arlington Blue Top Cab commercial building into a smaller facility to meet the current RC zoning ratio requirements.
The Executive Committee has encouraged our members to publicly participate in County meetings concerning this issue area, especially considering the results of the civic association's Neighborhood Survey the past two years. The issue area of transition housing, subsidized housing,and homeless shelters has been one of our members highest areas of interest or major concern based on survey results during the last two years. For example, in our recent two week survey of members ending October 15, 1994, the civic association inquired whether Arlington County should spend more on transition homes, subsidized housing, and homeless shelters. Under transition housing, 67% said no to increased spending, 20% said about the same, and 13% said yes to increased spending. Similarly, under subsidized housing, 64% said no to increased spending, 21% said about the same, and 15% said yes to increased spending. Likewise, under homeless shelters, 52% said no to increased spending, 23% said about the same, and 25% said yes to increased spending.
At the Citizen Forum on November 5, 1994, attended by over 100 citizens and County staff, Executive Committee members President Sherretta, Secretary Ragland, and Dorothy Sticken and BVSCA member Giolonda Vallarino actively participated in the strategy formulation for their assigned focus groups. President Sherretta and Secretary Ragland were nominated by their respective focus groups (e.g., Focus #3, Role of the Private and Focus Group #1, Affordable Housing Needs, respectively) to make their groups' strategy presentations at the end of their group sessions to the community forum for the wrap up session.
The summary consisted of 14 affordable housing needs, including such needs as: (1) More housing (committed to remain affordable) for different household types (e.g., families with children, persons with mental retardation or developmental disabilities, persons with mental illness, persons with physical disabilities, elderly persons, singles, new immigrants, and moderate and low income employees); (2) More rent assistance (e.g., Section 8 waiting list is 3 - 4 years long, especially refugee/immigrant families and individuals); (3) Better upkeep of rental housing; (4) Tenant organizing, empowerment; (5) High rents force overcrowding and issues of overcrowding; (6) Prevention of displacement by redevelopment and relocation issues; (7) Need housing grants; (8) More housing for seniors like Culpepper Gardens; (9) More handicapped accessible affordable units; (10) Single-family housing rehabilitation assistance for low-income persons; (11) Home ownership opportunities/assistance for moderate income persons; (12) Tax relief for low-income homeowners; (13) New funding sources to finance multi-family projects; and (14) A funding source to assist nonprofits to obtain site control.
Focus Group #1 selected as the highest priority affordable housing needs: (1) Housing for large families, (2) Rent assistance, (3) Funding sources for non-profits, (4) Housing for the elderly, and (5) Housing for persons with mental and physical disabilities. Under the first priority, in terms of the group #1 voting, housing problems for large legal refugee families from Somalia with 8 - 15 members and refugee families from Vietnam were discussed as critical problems by those present. Different strategies to resolve this problem were discussed. Briefly, the group selected the use of financial incentives and the targeting of buildings to consolidate apartments in order to increase the Arlington supply of apartments with three bedroom units and to provide for apartments with four bedroom units.
Under the second priority, in terms of the group #1 voting, was the need for increased rent assistance due to the high costs of rental housing in Arlington and the high security deposits required. To resolve this need different strategies were discussed, such as (1) raising the eligibility standard for housing grants; (2) limiting the number of years a household can receive subsidies; (3) providing assistance with security deposits; (4) increasing the budget for housing grants; (5) providing tax relief for owners of units with affordable rents; and (6) others. Among these, group #1 recommended providing tax relief to owners of units with affordable rents with leases of 3 - 5 years, similar to what Arlington County currently provides to owners of commercial income properties that rent below fair market values. (This concept, known also as "contract rent," has been successfully used by owners of commercial income producing properties in the Arlington County and Fairfax County Circuit Courts for substantial tax assessment reductions. For example, in Arlington County Circuit Court Case 88-1567, dated January 23, 1991, the Circuit Court Judge ordered the Arlington County Treasurer's Office to refund $176,558.46 in taxes for the correction of assessments for the Sears Main store, RPC# 18-010-009, and related properties. This Court Order shows that the Sears Main Store original 1990 land assessment was $1.76 million and the building assessment was $337,300 and the revised assessment for the land was $1.74 million and the building was $150,000.)
The third priority was the need for increased funding sources for non-profits. Of the different strategies discussed, the group #1 recommended maximizing the use of private lenders and directing funds to the most efficient applicants who provide non-profit help.
The fourth priority was the need for additional housing for the elderly. Group #1 recommended that the County needs to (1) conduct a study and project the number of senior citizens that will be living in Arlington over the next 20 years; (2) develop a list of qualified, responsible, and reasonably priced service providers of housing maintenance services (e.g., plumbing, electrical, roofing, yard work, etc.) to help senior citizens retain their existing housing and minimize the expected increased demand for retirement homes over the next decade; (3) establish economic and zoning incentives for targeting retirement homes nearby Arlington Metro stations to promote improved quality of life for senior citizens; (4) provide elderly housing with assisted living opportunities; and (5) others. Group #1 selected the recommendation to establish economic and zoning incentives to target retirement homes nearby Arlington Metro stations as the best strategy to provide additional housing opportunities for the elderly.
The fifth priority was the need for additional housing or housing options for persons with mental and physical disabilities. Various strategies were discussed, such as (1) providing financial loans to private owners for conversion of properties for group homes of 3 - 4 persons with mental or physical disabilities; (2) distributing group homes for the mentally and physically disabled throughout Arlington with no concentration in any one or a few neighborhoods; (3) providing economic and zoning incentives for more accessible units near Metro stations; and (4) changing laws or supporting local implementation of housing options for persons with disabilities. Among these, Group #1 selected as the best strategy for this priority area -- financial loans to private owners for conversion of properties for group homes of 3 - 4 persons with mental or physical disabilities.
According to Arlington County's Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, from November 1994 through February 1995, Arlington will prepare a draft Consolidated Plan. Also, CDBG and HOME proposals will be analyzed by County staff and citizen groups, and a one-year proposed plan for use of the HUD funds will be prepared. The one-year plan will be included in the County Manager's Proposed County Budget for fiscal 1996, which will be published early in February 1995. During February through April 1995, Arlington will conduct hearings, forums, and meetings on the proposed Consolidated Plan. The Arlington County Board, taking into consideration all of the input from citizens and County staff, will adopt a final Consolidated Plan in late April 1995. The plan is be submitted to HUD by April 30, 1995; and implementation will begin July 1, 1995.
Generally, we find out about crimes in our neighborhood or nearby neighborhoods only by accident -- often word of mouth. For example, I would like to briefly describe a recent robbery on North Harrison Street that I learned about from informal sources that was not reported in the media. On Tuesday, November 1, the Crestar Bank at Lee Highway and North Harrison Street was robbed in the middle of the day. When the robbers left the bank one fired several shots from a rapid fire gun. Some of the bullets hit the side of the Safeway Store at 2500 North Harrison Street. The bullets made a series of "pockmarks" along the side of the shipping entrance door. As you can imagine this incident caused quite a lot of consternation among two Safeway employees working near the open shipping department door.
There have been other serious incidents of near-by crime unreported in the media. Serious crime seems to be increasing in Arlington. I wonder if this is a trend of serious crime moving out of the District into the Arlington area. Many of us wonder when we will be the next statistic. How do you feel about it?