• Please Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

July 17, 2017

Proposed new Lubber Run Recreation Center: Too big and too expensive

Development,environment — @ 3:42 pm

The Arlington County Board is considering a replacement building for the Lubber Run Recreation Center at its July 18th meeting. Neighborhood activist and environmentalist Suzanne Smith Sundburg and others have commented that the new building will destroy hundreds of nearby trees and open green space and intrude into the nearby natural area along the run nearby and have negative impact on storm water. Also the proposed new building would be one of the most expensive rec centers ever built.

Lubber Run Rec Center, courtesy Arlington County

Here is the Suzanne’s public letter to the Arlington County Board:

July 17, 2017

Dear Chair Fisette and members of the Arlington County Board:

For the reasons outlined below, I respectfully request that you defer taking action on item 52 (Lubber Run Community Center – Endorsement of the Conceptual Design) on the County Board’s July 18, 2017, meeting agenda. Due to work commitments, I may be unable to comments in person on Tues. I ask that these comments (including attachments) be added to the public record for this item.

Whereas I welcome the very modest reduction in building footprint and other changes that staff released at 4:20 pm on Friday, the fact remains that “If the Board endorses the final design concept, the building layout and massing remain fixed.”—per the staff report.

Staff’s July 14 listserv message is remarkably free of detail. For example, it fails to mention any reduction in the number of trees (previously reported: 124) that are to be removed. Without more detail, it is impossible to know whether staff’s changes will result in any consequential reduction in the environmental harm to the site.

Essentially, the public is being denied an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on the design even though significant issues remain. Here are my concerns: 1) flawed process, 2) environmental impact and 3) cost.

Process Issues

Staff also appears to have ignored a request from the Public Facilities Review Committee. Below is an excerpt from a PFRC 5-16-17 letter (attached):

Notification for PFRC meetings should be distributed to the larger Lubber Run listserv as there is room for public comment at the meeting.

According to a resident who is on the LRCC listserv, he received no announcements of PFRC meetings. And in one instance, staff scheduled an LRCC public meeting that conflicted with a PFRC meeting also being held to review the LRCC project.

Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for. Namely, staff’s open-ended survey encouraged wishful thinking (without providing any reality-driven cost or environmental impact information). Not surprisingly, staff received a wide range of sometimes-conflicting aspirations and desires. However, there was one consistent and clearly expressed theme:

Save the site’s trees and make environmental protection/habitat preservation a priority.

In Appendix A (at the bottom) are comments extracted from the first 13 responses (out of the 66 identified respondents) — a 20% sample — to staff’s survey. They document strong community commitment to preserving natural habitat and environmental conservation on the LRCC site.

This community’s desires are consistent with the countywide survey results reported in the draft Public Spaces Master Plan; see p.58, Figure 17. Arlingtonians are hungry for nature and green space, not more built infrastructure and pavement. Yet, staff consistently chooses pricey, expensive-to-maintain built infrastructure over less expensive, more flexible, environmentally sound and sustainable recreational options.

Surprisingly, neither the PFRC letter nor the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group letter (attached) was uploaded to the project page or made available as part of staff’s report. Had I not asked about the geotechnical engineering/borings report, it, too, never would have seen the light of day. The public and County Board members deserve to have timely access to all relevant information (whether or not it supports staff’s position) before being asked to make decisions of this magnitude.

Environmental Considerations

I’ve already discussed with the County Manager (message attached), the remarkably similar conditions on the LRCC site to the Ashlawn Elementary School site, where the steep grade, removal of approx. 100 trees and expansive soil disturbance/site re-grading have exacerbated runoff and triggered ongoing stormwater management failures — including erosion and sediment problems that add to water quality and flood risk issues for nearby Four Mile Run.

The E2C2, NRJAG and PFRC letters were consistent in their pleas for tree preservation, habitat conservation and an environmentally sound plan/design, with the PFRC saying:

PFRC members would generally like to receive more information on the trees that would be lost for each of the schemes and generally believes that existing trees and landscape should take precedent over manmade landscape and newly planted trees wherever possible. …

The draft geotechnical engineering (borings) report clearly documents water on the site. Specifically pp. 11–13 go into great detail describing possible remedies for hydrostatic pressure and water around the building’s footings.

Absent from the report is any information about flow tests, which would determine roughly how much water is flowing beneath the site, its speed and direction. Water doesn’t disappear when you place obstructions in its path. It simply goes elsewhere. But when you don’t know how much water there is or where the water is coming from and going to, how can proper choices be made? It’s a bit like a doctor deciding to operate without first taking x-rays or an MRI of the area in question.

Likewise, staff’s remark about the project’s meeting the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance and the Stormwater Management Ordinance rings with irony. As we have all seen on the Ashlawn site — where these regulations applied and yet significant environmental degradation resulted — these assurances are meaningless.

Staff appears to take the position that if something isn’t prohibited by law or regulation, then it must be acceptable. This reasoning matches the justifications provided by Martin Shkreli for price-gouging lifesaving medicine and Donald Trump, Jr., for meeting with Russian agents.

Laws and regulations are not substitutes for exercising sound judgment, informed decision-making and employing basic common sense. And I hope that the County Board will hold staff to a higher standard that meets the county’s goals and objectives to protect the environment rather than the low bar of the law.

Cost

The $47.86 million in “total cost” appears to be on the high side. Even accounting for the parking garage by doubling the maximum building square footage to110,000 sq ft, the price tag comes to over $430 per square foot. That is almost 4 times the “high” estimate for constructing a community center in Arlington. VA, using BuildingJournal.com’s online construction-cost estimating tool:

Community Center Construction Cost Estimate – BldgJournal.jpg

Summary

Given the similar circumstances and undesirable results on the Ashlawn Elementary School site, neither staff nor the County Board can claim ignorance if they permit a repeat on the Lubber Run Community Center site. This time, as I understand it, there won’t even be a use permit to govern what occurs on this site, giving staff a completely free hand. Again, I ask County Board members to defer approval of the project’s design in order to obtain public feedback. I also ask the Board to use the extra time to request that the County Manger come back in September to produce a list of proactive steps staff will take to ensure that the failures on the Ashlawn site are not repeated and that the project and its building’s design are environmentally sound and are consistent with the goals and objectives of Arlington County’s Natural Resources Management Plan (adopted 2014).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

With kind regards,
Suzanne Smith Sundburg
Arlington, Va.

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July 15, 2017

Arlington can only reduce its green house gas emissions if the Virginia State Board toughens Virginia building standards and codes

Development,environment — @ 2:00 pm

The Arlington County Board in 2013 adopted a Community Energy Plan (CEP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years, but the recommended policy measures were never put into effect. Nearly 80 percent of Arlington GHG comes from buildings, and therefore, the first CEP goal was to tighten building codes for new and remodeled buildings, This never occurred as these codes are set by a Virginia statewide board that has refused to tighten energy standards on new construction. The second goal of the Arlington plan was a district energy plan of co-generation power plants and that never into practice owing to opposition from private companies including Dominion Power.

Somewhat paradoxically, GHG in Arlington did decline by about 18 percent, according to the county, during 2007-15 because Dominion Power used more natural gas and less coal to produce electricity, and because of about one-fifth of Arlington office space becoming vacant, thus cutting energy use in commerce. However, residential use of energy in Arlington rose as larger and more energy inefficient homes and apartments were built, and as the population rose by 14 percent during 2000-15.

Arlington County cannot require builders to meet tighter building standards but rather depends on the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development’s building code. The CEP indicated in 2013 that if this state board adopted a tougher International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in Virginia, then Arlington building efficiency would rise about 30 percent. The state board never tightened the code.

Now in 2017, the state board is considering the adoption of the 2015 IECC that would likely mean an energy savings of slightly considerably over 30 percent above the current weaker version of the 2012 code.

It is therefore imperative that Arlington obtain adoption of the full 2015 IECC that would mean that new buildings would likely be about 30 more efficient per square foot than currently.

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July 12, 2017

Arlington’s use of electricity continues to rise as Arlington Community Energy Plan goes unfulfilled

Development,environment — @ 3:38 pm

In early June 2017, the Arlington County Board pledged adherence to the Paris Accord on Climate Change (despite president Trump’s withdrawal), and indicated that the Arlington 2013 Community Energy Plan (CEP) goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years would make the Paris accord possible in the county. Unfortunately, the Arlington County Board adopted the CEP four years ago in 2013, but never implemented the main policy measures to meet the goals set in the plan, and energy use–mainly electricity continues to rise.

Energy use in Arlington, particularly of electricity, has continued to increase over the past 17 years, and there has been no paradigm shift to energy-savings building design particularly in the new and larger houses. Energy use in residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 79 percent of Arlington GHG in recent years (transportation for the remainder). Since 2000, total electricity use in Arlington rose by 14 percent led by a 45-percent rise in residential use, according to utility data provided by Arlington County. Commercial use of electricity peaked in 2007, and declined by 11 percent during 2007-15 as about 20-percent of office space became empty, and the recession took hold.

Higher residential use of electricity and natural gas can be traced to about 14-percent more Arlington residents, and tear downs of older detached houses and replacement by larger wasteful McMansions. Larger square footage in a home is directly related to energy use unless extraordinary energy-savings technology is introduced. The residential population in Arlington rose by about 14 percent to 216 million during 2000-15.

Total use of natural gas in Arlington did fall about 28 percent during 2000-15 as commercial buildings used much less, but natural gas use in residences rose by 4 percent during 2000-15. Warmer winter temperatures have curbed natural gas use for heating, and the nearly 20-percent office vacancy rate in 2015 reduced the need to heat offices. However, as vacant office space is rented in the future, energy use in commerce will rise.

The county government has failed to bring into effect the two main goals set in the 2013 Community Energy Plan–much tighter new building standards and co-generation of electricity. Without these measures, the county will never be able to reach the goal of a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions in the county.

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June 26, 2017

Arlington Greens Endorse Charles McCullough for Arlington County Board

political campaigns — @ 4:11 pm

Arlington Greens voted at their May 31 meeting to endorse Charles McCullough for Arlington County Board election to be held in November of this year. Charles is an independent candidate who has lived in Arlington for 10 years and a resident of Pentagon City.
He is an experienced attorney who has worked extensively in education policy, equal employment opportunity, and credit unions. He served on the Arlington Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a number of years as well as involved with public schools in south Arlington.

AGP chair John Reeder said that Charles is a young, progressive who will bring new ideas to the Arlington County Board. Arlington Greens endorsed independent John Vihstadt three years ago who won election to the Arlington County Board.

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May 25, 2017

Arlington Greens meet on Wed, May 31, 7:30 PM at Ballston Firehouse Community Room

Candidates,green meetings — @ 12:25 pm

Greens will meet on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 PM at the Ballston Firehouse located at N. George Mason Drive and Wilson Boulevard.

The major item will consideration of endorsement or nomination of a candidate for Arlington County Board in the November election.

All are welcome to attend, but only AGP members can fully debate and vote on matters. Membership in the AGP is open to any Arlington resident; dues are normally $25 a year, but for students, unemployed and seniors, dues are reduced to $10. Dues can be waived for economic hardship too by our treasurer.

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May 4, 2017

AGP donates $150 to help Syrian refugees in Northern Virginia

Events,peace — @ 4:43 pm

AGP donors and supporters donated $150 at the community screening of Salam Neighbor (almost 50 attendees!) to help Syrian refugees. The AGP will donate this amount to Catholic Charities, a local charity actively helping w resettlement of Syrian and other refugees.

This event was one of our efforts to reach immigrant and marginalized communities in our area. Through the film, we sought to humanize the media stories that flood our airwaves daily. We made efforts to bring to light the vulnerabilities

refugees endure while living in encampments. We addressed “What Can I do” questions by providing a list of social justice organizations and other ways to impact change to our attendees. One of our speakers talked about the impacts of civil war on the environment, resources and infrastructure. Another spoke about the broader geopolitical implications of the US’ policies in the Middle East.

We are proud of our efforts and are extraordinarily grateful to Busboys and Poets for providing a space and a full menu to our guests and our invited speakers. We remain humbled at Busboys’ generosity and its commitment to sharing Cinema for a Conscious Community.

Our words cannot express our gratitude to the coordinating, managerial and wait staff at Busboys that helped make our film screening a successful one.

http://salamneighbor.org/

Salam Neighbor

salamneighbor.org

Salam Neighbor is an award-winning film and campaign to connect the world to refugees. Immerse into the life of a…

Please view this film if you have time…..(it is currently available on Netflix. The AGP purchased the screening rights to show this film in public/educational venues)

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April 30, 2017

Greens march with hundreds of thousands others at March for Climate Change, Washington, April 29

environment,Events — @ 1:25 pm

Green Party members and supporters marched at the April 29 March for Climate Change along with hundreds of thousands of other people supporting continued U.S. Government support of EPA, environmental laws, and respect for our planet. Arlington Greens mixed with Greens from all points of Virginia, and from states of Michigan, New York, Maryland, Kentucky and the District of Columbia.

We are proud that Green Party values were on display with this great American Democracy exhibit that Americans support a clean environment and measures to end climate change.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/climate-march-expected-to-draw-massive-crowd-to-dc-in-sweltering-heat/2017/04/28/1bdf5e66-2c3a-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html?utm_term=.6d918703c023

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April 27, 2017

Screening of Salaam Neighbor documentary has full house at Bus Boys and Poets, April 25

Events,peace — @ 10:07 am

Over sixty people attended the screening of the documentary Salaam Neighbor on two Americans working in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan on April 25 at Bus Boys and Poets, Shirlington. After words, Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice, and a speaker from Amnesty International led a discussion. Sandra Hernandez of the Arlington Greens and Tim Dempsey of the Arlington Revolution Now chaired the meeting.

As a follow up, Greens will be sharing names of NGOs that are working in Syrian refugee camps that can use financial contributions.

The broader question of continuous war in the Middle East including Syria since 2001 with the U.S. futilely spending over a trillion dollars in military spending needs to be addressed immediately as well as improving the plight of the over 5 million Syrians who are now refugees. Without an end to the military violence, including that done by U.S. military and with U.S. military material, there can be no way for these over 5 million people to return and rebuild their country.

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April 24, 2017

Arlington Greens at March for Science, April 22, 2017

A small group of Arlington Greens led by Sandra Hernandez, Kirit Mookerjee, and John Reeder marched with DC and Virginia Green members in the pouring cold rain with tens of thousands of other Americans in Washington, DC to support continued public funding of science for global warming, medicine and other fields that help our country and its citizens.

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April 21, 2017

Go organic and celebrate and help our Earth

Development,environment — @ 3:17 pm

Earth Day, April 22 celebrate by going organic in Arlington–buy organic and go organic on your Arlington lawn and garden

Even in urban Arlington, we can do something positive for the environment–eat and buy organic products and go organic on your lawn and garden and only use manure and organic-friendly products.

We know that organic farming practices offer countless benefits to our environment, now it’s time to spread the word! In honor of Earth Day, The Organic Center will be sharing 5 studies that show how going organic supports a healthy planet for all. From the birds and the bees to the soil and the trees, these studies demonstrate how the contributions of organic agriculture to a healthy environment are undeniable!

Follow The Organic Center tomorrow, April 22nd on Facebook and Twitter to learn about the science behind organic this #EarthDay. Or even better, share along with us!

website: https://www.organic-center.org/

Follow @OrganicCenter to learn why you should go #organic in honor of #EarthDay! #ScienceSaysSo http://bit.ly/2gtyUxv

New study on the environment cost of bread shows large impact of fertilizer use. 1 solution: go #organic #EarthDay http://bit.ly/2pLmCGr

DYK #organic farming increases the amount of carbon in soil? Another reason to go #organic for #EarthDay! @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLq0kI

Go #organic for #EarthDay! Why? B/c pesticides have long-term effects on bees! Organic = no neonics: http://bit.ly/2oRB5Cg @OrganicCenter

Birds are more abundant + diverse on #organic farms. Organic is good for the planet! #EarthDay @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLnB9V

DYK that #organic farming methods reduce water pollution? Check out the science behind this organic fact: http://bit.ly/1It6VWd

The Organic Center digs deeper
A perfect Earth Day share! We are digging in to the benefits of organic on Soil Health while introducing the work and mission of The Center. Help us spread the word! Check out the video below and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE with your networks!

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