• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, June 7, 2018 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

May 18, 2018

Westover Village Historic Preservation—County turns its back on preserving apartments and history

The Arlington County Government affirmed on May 16 that it prefers demolition of 70-year old apartments and their greenspace to their preservation. Their news to Arlington renters and historians: drop dead. The county Historic Affairs Landmark Review (HALRB) Board at the urging of the county staff and manager (and presumably the county board) voted in May to allow the bulldozers to continue to operate in Westover for at least another year.


On May 16, the HALRB refused to designate any of the over 700 units as historic, and instead voted to postpone any action on the historic petition for eight months or more. During 2016-18, a developer demolished garden-apartment buildings with about 100 moderate-cost rental apartments, and the county government refused to do anything to stop the destruction even though it accepts that these apartments are historically significant and contribute the largest number of affordable market-rate rental apartments in any North Arlington neighborhood.

Arlington Greens along with 160 Arlington residents filed a historic preservation petition with Arlington County in June 2016, and the county then began a historic study of historic Westover Village. Then over the next two years, the HALRB held two hearings, and in addition there were a half-dozen other community meetings over Westover historic preservation. Meanwhile, the county professional historic staff who were supposed to prepare a detailed architectural and planning study and inventory of existing historic buildings did nothing.

Now, two years later in May 2018, the HALRB voted to defer any decision for another at least 8 months until the county government implements another ordinance called Housing Conservation District, a novel and new idea never actually tried. The HCD has no legal relation to anything the HALRB is charged with doing under state historic law and county ordinance.

The county staff and board exhibit a bias against keeping older garden apartments in Arlington, and instead favor high rise development including infill in Westover. The county government believes that historic preservation and moderate income apartments are incompatible despite the example in Arlington of two other large historic garden-apartment complexes with many moderate income units, Colonial Village (since 1978) and Buckingham (1980s). Both complexes contain a mix of moderate cost rental units and condos and a mix of income and ethnic groups. Why not in Westover in a historic district? Does every neighborhood have to look like Ballston?

The county board’s bias in favor of developers and against current residents is very clear: build very expensive high rise apartment buildings and demolish existing low rise garden units that house renters. The failed policy of building new subsidized units as affordable housing results from the very high cost of such new units (well over $400,000 each) that then can only be rented to a favored few (generally below 300 households a year) who also generally must earn above $60,000 a year. Lower income renters are virtually all excluded and denied any housing assistance to rent in high cost Arlington.

Preserving existing units in Westover built 70 years ago that have been updated and are generally in good condition but smaller and without the bells and whistles of new units (but also much lower in cost) is a proven way to keep some market-rate, unsubsidized apartments in high cost Arlington which continues to drive away its working income renters.

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May 4, 2018

Westover Village: Historic Preservation Public Hearing on Wed, May 16 at 7:30 PM

Come to the HALRB Public Hearing on Westover
Where: County Office Bldg 2100 Clarendon Blvd
When: Wednesday, May 16, starting at 7:30 PM
Why: Save Westover Apartments


Public Hearing to Consider Historic Designation of Westover Apts

Plan to attend and speak in favor of local historic designation of Westover Village apartments; local designation would prevent demolition of existing market-rate apartment buildings. In the past three years, 11 buildings with 100 apartments were demolished or scheduled for demolition. In their place are now towering million dollar townhouses surrounded by pavement.

Save our neighborhood and trees and green space and our neighbors who are moderate income renters who have lived here since 1940. Arlington must have a place for moderate income renters and not become a place just for the rich.

Historic Designation Preserves Apartments!
• Stop demolitions and keep current affordable rental apartments
• Attend and speak in favor of historic designation at the Arlington County Historic Affairs Landmarks Review Board public hearing on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, starting at 7:30 pm at Arlington County Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/westover-neighborhood-study/

Meet in front of Westover Post Office at 6:45 PM on May 16 if you need a ride and we will carpool together

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April 5, 2018

Queens Court– Luxury Housing at Public Expense for Not-so-Low Income Renters in Rosslyn, and Crony Capitalism for Well Connected Developers

The county board continued its wasteful policy of throwing public money to developers when it approved on Feb. 22, 2018 about $8 million in local funds for another massive high rise apartment building in Rosslyn, called Queens Court, with another $20 million promised later this year. The project will cost nearly $40 million with this entire amount coming from public sources (the county, VHDA, and HUD).

Queens Court today

This is yet another example of crony capitalism—building a few apartments fit for a queen and giving the developer an excellent profit. The iron triangle, the affordable housing industrial complex, once again produces a white elephant at public expense and short changes tenants and taxpayers.

Arlington County gives tens of millions of dollars annually to developers to build so-called “affordable apartments” that end up not being affordable to the neediest Arlington residents, and mostly just subsidies crony developers and insiders at the expense of taxpayers and low income Arlington renters. Queens Court is aptly named, a luxury complex fit for a queen and the lucky few, and an immediate $3 million profit maker for the developer.

A nonprofit housing developer APAH will tear down the current modest garden apartment complex with 39 units, and build an apartment tower with about 250 units that will mainly (82 percent) go to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the of the area median income (AMI) ($60,000 to 80,000 for a family of four). Exactly 9 units will be rented to the lowest income Arlington residents, those making less than 40 percent AMI ($33,000 for a single or $38,000 for a couple).

The Queen units will cost $440,000 each, a ridiculously high amount compared to the large number of condos available for sale for less. Zillow.com listed 199 condos and townhouses for sale in Arlington in April 2018 for under $440,000, many well under $300,000. Right across the street from Queen Courts is the Crestwood Apartments with 63 units valued at only $230,000 per apartment. Why not just buy the Crestwood Apartments for its 2018 tax assessed value of $15 million?

Queens Court

Only in Arlington would anyone consider $440,000 apartments rented to people mostly making over $60,000 a year as “low income housing.” Somebody earning $60,000 to $80,000 a year is not low income by any standard even in Arlington.

Those who are low income of those earning below 50% AMI. There are now 9,000 households earning less than 50% AMI in Arlington who get no housing assistance at all today. Only 45 units in Queens Court are going to be rented to any of these 9,000 households.

Far more effective are the county’s housing (rental) grants that currently help about 1,200 households of seniors, disabled and families with a child with a monthly housing grant that reduces their rental cost. The program spends about $9 million annually. All of these renters have incomes well below $27,000 a year (30 percent AMI).

Arlington Greens have repeatedly asked the county government to allocate far more of its $38 million in housing assistance to housing (rental) grants. If the county had allocated the $28 million to be spent on Queens Court to housing grants of even $300 a month, then about 7,000 households—all earning under 50% AMI–would have benefitted. Instead 250 households with incomes above $60,000 get to rent a new queen apartment in Rosslyn.

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March 5, 2018

Petition to ban plastic bags in commercial stores in Arlington VA

Petition to the Arlington County Board from Arlington residents to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags in Arlington, Virginia

• Whereas—over 90 percent of single-use plastic bags end up in solid waste or in streams, lakes, and oceans, as litter and harming sea life and the world ecology;
• the second leading man-made waste found in the world’s oceans and waters are plastic bags causing damage to sea and human life, and in 25 years there will be more plastic waste by weight than fish in the oceans;
• Arlington residents generate over 100 million single-use plastic bags a year, nearly all of which is never recycled;
• About 400 million tons of carbon emissions are wasted worldwide to produce plastic bags (more carbon than emitting from Britain);
• We the signed residents of Arlington Virginia therefore ask the Arlington County Board to ban single use plastic bags from commercial establishments in Arlington Virginia.

Name Address (include ZIP) Email
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Sponsored by the Arlington Greens, Arlington VA 22205. Email: Info@greensofarlington.org.
Website: www.greensofarlington.org March 2018

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Ban plastic bags in Arlington

The evidence is overwhelming the environmental damage plastic bags do, and about two dozen countries, including developing countries like Kenya, and the entire state of California have banned them entirely. Consumers can readily shift to reusable grocery and shopping bags, and our streams, rivers and oceans are much cleaner. About 60 cities impose bag taxes, like Washington, D.C., but the best policy is to simply stop selling and producing a product that cannot degrade naturally nor be recycled easily. See Joseph Curtin, “Let’s Bag Plastic Bags,” the New York Times, March 4, 2018. Arlington County now refuses to accept plastic bags in recycling, and the amount recycled in the U.S. is negligible.

About 3 years ago, Arlington Greens asked the Arlington County Board to ban free plastic bags in commercial stores and restaurants. The Arlington Board refused to ban these bags from commercial establishments in Arlington, citing its fear that this ban would violate Virginia law. Greens however had written instructions from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that a county ban is in fact legal under Virginia law. At least one major Arlington food retailer, Whole Foods, supported this ban as it has not distributed plastic bags in about a decade.

Every year the Arlington County Government asks for community volunteers to get out and help pull out waste from our streams and parks. This is real hypocrisy given that it is far more effective to prevent litter than clean it up futilely each year. Plastic bags–followed by Styrofoam containers–are one of the leading wastes found in our streams, parks and green space. It is far far better to simply ban their use in Arlington, than each year go out and try to pull out bags from rocks, and branches; most of the bags end up in the Potomac River and our oceans. Degraded plastic bag pieces or microplastics end up in our drinking water, and poisoning our fish, whales, turtles and sea birds.

Arlington County is small but since the average American consumer uses 500 plastic bags a year, we collectively generate about 110 million single-use plastic bags a year. We in Arlington should be leading the way in Virginia towards a sustainable future that has no place for killer plastic bags.

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March 1, 2018

Greens meet on Wed., Mar. 7, 7:30 PM at Ballston Firehouse

Events,green meetings — @ 12:28 pm

Arlington Greens will meet on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 PM, at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room (located on Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive).

Major topics:

l. Greens proposal to expand more housing (rental) grants in Arlington

2. Mobilizing supporters of Westover Apartments historic preservation–county public hearing is scheduled in May
3. Tightening energy efficiency in new housing in Arlington
4. Update on 2018 Arlington County Board election

The public is invited to attend. Notice to members to bring a check or cash to pay your 2018 dues ($25, or $10 for students, seniors and low income persons).

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February 14, 2018

Greens support more housing (rental) grants for low income Arlington residents

Affordable Housing — @ 5:43 pm

Arlington Greens adopted a resolution at their February 2018 meeting calling on the Arlington County Board to provide more funding in FY 2019 for low income housing (rental) grants to the lowest income Arlington residents.

Today there are 15,000 Arlington renter households earning under 50-percent AMI, most of whom receive no housing assistance in any form. Housing rental grants are the county’s single most effective housing assistance program. A recent HUD study found that housing grants in the United States were 72 percent less expensive than building new subsidized apartments called CAFs.

In 2018, the county was only able to help 276 new households with a new expensive committed affordable unit (CAF) which is 354 households short of the county affordable housing goal, and short 1,000 over the past 3 years. CAFs are just too expensive to be affordable and numerous.

Greens support funding 750 more housing grants of $300 per month to help the lowest income Arlington renters (those earning less than 40 percent of the area median income (AMI)). The cost of $3 million a year can be obtained by shifting funds from the real estate tax relief (RETR) program for affluent homeowners by changing their tax relief from tax exemption to tax deferral.

In FY 2018, the county spent $9.2 million for housing grants for 1,249 households—a quarter of whom are families with a child, about half are disabled persons, and a quarter, seniors over 65. The average beneficiary family earned $27,000, and a disabled person or senior over 65 earned about $14,000 a year. Their total assets must be less than $35,000 and an income below $33,000 for a single person.

The real estate tax relief program in FY 2018 spent $4.4 million for tax exemption or tax deferral of property taxes to benefit 932 households (each receiving an average $4,700 benefit) of seniors and disabled persons who can earn up to $100,000 a year (130 percent AMI for a single person), and can have personal assets up to $540,000, in addition to their residence.

These property owners should be granted tax deferral of their property taxes rather than tax exemption. These property owners would pay no real estate tax until the property is sold. There is no financial burden on the household, and our rising property values insure that even these deferred taxes will be paid without a net cost to property owner in the future

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January 25, 2018

Greens meet on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7:30 PM at Ballston Firehouse Community Room

Events,green meetings — @ 11:56 am

Arlington Greens will meet on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse located at N. George Mason Drive and Wilson Boulevard. The public is invited to attend, but only members may vote.

Topics:

Westover Historic preservation of garden apartments

Housing conservation district zoning (HCD) to preserve affordable apartments

Divestment of Arlington County funds from Wells Fargo and other pipeline financing banks

Election of 2018 officers (chairperson and treasurer)

Ranked choice voting procedure

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December 22, 2017

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

Arlington County Blocks Historic Preservation of Older Neighborhoods in a Bow to the Developers

On December 19, 2017, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to eliminate the right of all Arlington citizens to nominate a neighborhood or group of buildings for consideration for local historic preservation. The Board bowed to pressure from investors and developers seeking to profit by bulldozing older apartments and detached houses in Arlington. County staff are angered that Arlington citizens have asked for protection of local historic districts and buildings, particularly in Westover, and wanted to effectively block citizens from petitioning the local government to protect whole neighborhoods or apartment complexes like Westover Village.

Under the new county rules, only civic associations, condo boards or homeowner associations may ask for historic preservation for multiple properties or a homeowner who obtains at least 25 percent of other property owners’ permission. Tenants have no rights at all.

In the past, only a few civic associations have ever asked for historic preservation and often have opposed it owing to developers and investors greed in demolition. Tenant associations and historic groups can no longer petition for historic status. The first neighborhood protected in Arlington was the Colonial Village in 1980 with a petition from the tenants association. Colonial Village today is a mix of lower income and moderate income tenants and condo associations living in a garden-like area with mature trees, green space, adjacent to the Courthouse Metro.

The latest government elimination of citizens’ rights to petition their local government resulted from the Arlington Greens and local tenants asking for historic protection of Westover Village apartment buildings in 2016. An investor has already demolished nearly 100 apartment units that were moderate income rentals, and built luxury townhouses costing over $800,000 for rich people. There are another over 300 units at risk of demolition. The Westover Village was designated as a national historic district in 2006, owing to its distinct WWII architecture and style from the 1940s.

The county board on a unanimous vote showed its true colors: protect developers, investors and absentee property owners to the neglect of tenants, neighbors, and historians. Dollars trump human rights to affordable housing and preserved older neighborhoods.

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October 31, 2017

Why do Subsidized Apartments in Arlington Cost so Much?

Affordable Housing — @ 4:13 pm

Arlington Greens have been complaining for the past 4-5 years about the exorbinant cost of the subsidized “affordable housing” apartments (“committed affordable units” or CAFs) which have been averaging about $400,000 each in actual construction costs. For example, the APAH project at the former Arlington Presbyterian Church site now being constructed close to Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road entails about 173 units (about 60 percent of the units (105) are studio or one-bedroom units) and cost $400,000 per unit. Arlington County Government is providing about $18 million total or $100,000 per unit in subsidy.

Why does it cost a nonprofit housing developer (APAH) $400,000 per unit to build these subsidized units? The government, both the county and the Federal Government HUD, are providing roughly $300,000 in subsidies per unit. The church supposedly sold its land for under-market value; the nonprofit does not earn profits. Yet, these units the majority of which are studio or one bedrooms cost $400,000.

Just about 1/2 mile south of this new project which will probably take another year or more to complete, is the for-profit Trafalgar Flats Apartments that are nearly complete. These condo apartments are listed for sales “starting at the low $200,000s,” for a studio or junior one bedroom apartment http://trafalgarflats.com/

Apparently the for-profit developer is able to sell units for below $300,000 and still make a good profit. How can a for profit developer put up luxury apartments in the same area of Arlington for $100,000 per unit less than a subsidized nonprofit developer?

The answer is of course competition: there was no competitive bidding for the $18 million in county funds.

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