• Please Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

February 6, 2017

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Arlington County Giving $6 million to Nestle Corporation is Wrong

Letter to the editor, Arlington Sun Gazette

Arlington County’s recent announcement of a secret deal in which the county board gave $6 million of local Arlington tax dollars without public involvement or notice to Nestle Corporation to move to an empty Rosslyn high rise is a classic example of crony capitalism to bail out Monday Corporation’s 27-story turkey in Rosslyn (empty since it was built in 2013), and a waste of precious local taxes that can better go to serve Arlington needy citizens, its school children, parks or other community needs.

Arlington does not need to provide big businesses any more incentives; Arlington has been rated for decades as one of the best places to live, work or retire. Tack on our great transportation, low crime rate, great libraries, schools and recreation, and lower taxes compared to our neighbors, and even without our 6 million tax bucks Nestle would have come out ahead moving here. Perhaps county board members and our overpaid Arlington Economic Development staff on the county payroll need get to out and see what makes our community already GREAT. It’s small businesses that need help, not a hundred-billion-dollar-a-year corporations for whom 6 million bucks is a drop in the bucket.

Let’s not overlook Nestle’s shoddy human rights record in third world countries either. The world’s largest coffee company should not be employing slave or child labor in its plantations abroad.

We Greens support transparency in government, and this action was as hidden as darkness. Last year and this year, Greens have asked the county board and manager to come up with $8 million needed to begin to fund 1,800 housing grants as part of the affordable housing master plan that help some of our 30,000 residents making less than 50% area median income and the county board ‘pleads poor us, no tax revenues.’ If you give away the taxes that we residents pay to corporations, then of course there are no funds to help lower income Arlingtonians nor to build classrooms and hire more teachers for our bursting public schools.

Marie Pellegrino

chairperson

the Arlington Greens

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January 24, 2017

Greens meet on Wed. Feb. 1, 7:30 pm–special guest speaker John Vihstadt, Arlington County Board member

Arlington Greens will host special guest speaker John Vihstadt, member of the Arlington County Board, at our Feb. 1, Wednesday meeting starting at 7:30 pm at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room (located at George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd).

John Vihstadt was elected as an independent candidate two years ago with support from the Arlington Greens, independents, Democrats and Republican voters in Arlington.

Other topics we will discuss:
l. status of Westover historic designation process
2. affordable housing program proposals for the FY 2018 Arlington County budget
3. Greens participation in the Womens March in DC on Jan. 21
4. Upcoming elections and vacancies in the November general election

All are welcome to attend.

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December 6, 2016

Historic Board votes to go forward on historic district for Westover apartments

On November 30, the Historic Affairs Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted 6-2 to proceed to the final study and review of designating the apartment buildings in Westover area of Arlington as a historic district. Arlington Greens including Steve Davis, Kirit Mookerjee and John Reeder spoke in favor of a local Arlington historic designation of Westover Village, particularly the apartment district threatened with demolitions.
A number of tenants and historic preservation supporters spoke as well in favor of historic designation that would make it difficult to demolish existing apartment buildings which provide over 700 moderate income rental units in Westover.

The county historic staff will next research and complete a full report within 6-12 months, and then the HALRB will vote whether to accept local designation and forward this to the Arlington County Board for its approval or denial.

Arlington Greens have been working with tenants and historic preservationists to maintain the current moderate income rental units in Arlington; there are about 470 apartments that are market rate affordable rental units (affordable at 60 percent of the area median income) and about 223 subsidized committed affordable units. Developers have demolished about 62 units in the past two years and another 8 units are scheduled for demolition. Expensive townhouses are built in the place of these 70 year old apartments.

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November 4, 2016

Rents of subsidized garden apartments in Arlington were the same as private market units in 2013

Rents charged in 2013 in subsidized committed affordable (CAF) garden apartments in Arlington were compared to rents charged on average in county-wide, market-rate apartments in Arlington in 2013. The subsidized garden apartment CAFs rented in 2013 for about $1,300 per month for a one bedroom, and $1,760 per month for a 2-bedroom apartment. In 2013, there were about 6,500 CAF units in Arlington.

The CAF rents were not significantly less than what a tenant could get from a private, market-rate landlord in that year. This is disturbing and counter intuitive since the county government provided about $10 million (roughly $100,000 in AHIF funding per new CAF unit), but the tenants did not receive lower rents.
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The county-wide market rents in garden apartments in 2013 were $1,369 and $1,667 per month, respectively, according to Arlington County Housing division. Thus, a one bedroom CAF unit rented for about $70 per month below the market rents, and a 2-bedroom CAF unit for about $100 above market rents. The combined average rent for one and two bedroom CAFs was about the same as the market rate for unsubsidized, market-rate units. Thus, the housing subsidy to the tenant in the CAF was zero.

The CAF rents were derived from a sample of two large CAF projects, the Gates of Buckingham (348 units), and the Westover Apartments (115 units), both operated by AHC, Inc. The average rent for a one bedroom apartment in Westover Apartments was $1,197 per month and $1,550 per month for a two-bedroom unit. At Buckingham, a one bedroom unit rented for $1,391 and a 2-bedroom unit for $1,849 per month. Averaging these two complexes (prorated for the number of units) the average rent for a one bedroom was $1,294 per month, and for a 2-bedroom, $1,764.

The Arlington County Housing Division annually surveys private landlords for rents charged countywide, and publishes these data in the Annual Housing Targets Report. For 2013, the average rent in Arlington charged for a -one-bedroom garden apartment was $1,369 and for a two-bedroom unit, $1,667. The average rent for all types of apartments in elevator apartments and garden apartments in 2013 was $1,780 for a one bedroom unit and $2,324 for a two bedroom unit, averaging $1,977 for all units.

In summary, one bedroom CAF apartments in Westover and Buckingham rented for about $70 per month less than a private market rate one bedroom ($1,300 versus $1,369). A two bedroom CAF rented for about $100 per month more than a private unit ($1,764/month for the CAF and $1,667 for a private unit). Combined, the two principal types of CAF units rented at nearly the same as private market units, and thus provided virtually no rental subsidy to tenant living in the CAFs.

Transparency of the CAFs thus indicates that there is little or no financial gain to tenants living in the 6,500 CAF units in Arlington. In fy 2013, Arlington County provided nearly $10 million in local funds for the affordable housing investment fund (AHIF) that goes only to maintain and build new CAFs. The benefit from these $10 million spent in only terms of lower rents for low income tenants was zero.

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October 22, 2016

Saving Westover Affordable Apartments: Establishing a Local Historic District is the Necessary First Step

With the demolition of about 70 apartment units in Westover over the past two years, it is clear what the fate of the remaining market-rate affordable units will be in the near future: a bulldozer. For this reason, community activists in June 2016 filed a petition to the county government to designate Westover Village as a local historic district, thereby providing some protections against any further demolitions. The county HALRB is to hold a public hearing on November 30 to evaluate this petition.

Developers and some Westover homeowners argue against the historic district, and suggest other affordable housing tools be used to preserve the 400 units at risk. Unfortunately, the county has no other ways to stop demolition so this is disingenuous. In any event, the county cannot compel apartment building owners to sell to them or to a nonprofit. A nonprofit housing group APAH with county funding was able to buy 68 units, but 400 unprotected units remain under bulldozer threat.

The Arlington County Board approved in September 2016 an $11 million loan to APAH to purchase these 68 units in Westover for preservation as affordable units, amounting to $161,000 per unit. Then APAH says it will remodel the units at a cost of $188,000 per unit, raising their cost to nearly $400,000 each. This leaves 400 units at risk.

If the owners of the remaining 400 units were provided the same financing per unit, the county would need another $62 million in AHIF loans. But, the balance of AHIF funds is only $21 million currently after the latest APAH project, and thus the county is $42 million short. Thus, the county could not immediately finance the additional 400 units even if its owners wanted to sell right away.

Some affordable housing supporters say that historic preservation will not solve the affordability problem, but in fact this is disingenuous. If the apartment buildings are demolished, there is no possibility of keeping historic affordable rental apartments at all, whereas with historic preservation and the buildings preserved at least short term, then there is time to find means to keep affordable rents.

Longer term with a historic district in Westover, the county and nonprofits would be likely to finance gradual purchase of buildings as their owners decide to sell. The local historic ordinance requires that the owner of an historic building must first offer it for sale for one year at a fair market price before it can be demolished. Thus, a nonprofit or the county housing agency could purchase such a building.

Thus, designating all Westover apartments as a historic district under local Arlington County ordinance is the necessary first step if the Arlington County Board sincerely wishes to preserve affordable rental housing. The later and necessary second step will be to provide financial resources to later purchase units or to subsidize their owners who will agree to permanently keep them as affordable rental units as has been the case in Westover for the past 75 years.Digital Camera

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September 13, 2016

Two more apartment buildings in Westover Village scheduled for demolition

Two more apartment buildings in Westover Village are scheduled for demolition in the near future as the owner submitted a request to Arlington County for demolition permits. The buildings contain at least eight apartments rented at moderate levels; some of the current tenants were previously evicted from an adjacent apartment building demolished earlier this spring.

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The two buildings are located at 5718 and 5724 N. 10th Road, Arlington VA, next to the Westover Park. This developer was also the one who demolished six buildings earlier this year to make way for luxury townhouses, selling for in excess of $800,000 each.

So far about 62 apartment units were demolished this year, and these two buildings would add 8 more demolished apartments and evict these families. The building owner did not offer relocation and moving expenses to these tenants.

Community activists and Greens have petitioned the Arlington County Government to designate the entire Westover Village as a local historic area and thus bar the demolition of these historic buildings which are in good condition. The county government has not yet officially begun the historic designation process. Greens previously petitioned the county board to bar the temporary demolition of any buildings until the historic review process is completed within a year or two. The county board refused to do so.

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Westover tenants picnic celebration of Greens and Tenants for Preservation of Affordable Apts

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The picnic of Greens and Westover tenants was a fun event with about 100 people attending, and enjoying food and good music from Westover Beer garden musicians. Over 30 tenants signed up to be part of the new tenants association and to be part of the effort to keep existing apartments in Westover from demolition. Digital Camera

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August 22, 2016

Arlington Greens at Arlington Fair Gather Signatures for Westover Historic Preservation and Jill Stein

Arlington and Virginia Green members staffed a booth at the Arlington County Fair during Aug. 19-21, and gathered many signatures for a petition urging historic preservation of Westover Village in Arlington, and also many signatures to get Jill Stein for president on the Virginia ballot in November.
Below are Greens Kirit Mookerjee and Steve Davis at the booth at the county fair which as usual was held at the T-J Middle School in south Arlington. Greens got to meet many Arlington supporters and old friends at the fair.
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Greens and tenants in Westover have been advocating for the past three months to have Arlington County historically designate and protect the Village area which contains over 700 rental apartment units. Greens also are upset at the high rate of tear downs of well maintained 60 or 70 year old brick detached houses for middle income homeowners now being demolished to make way for ugly, overlylarge McMansions destined for the wealthy able to buy a $1.5 million energy guzzler with no trees, greenspace or taste.

Jill Stein was nominated by the U.S. Green Party for president, but has yet to get on the Virginia ballot. She is on the ballot of about 20 states in the U.S. but not so far in Virginia nor 29 other states that make it difficult for third party candidates to actually appear on the election day ballot. The two dominant parties of course wish to limit third parties like we Greens from appearing democratically on the ballot.

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August 17, 2016

Westover Historic Preservation: Efforts move ahead to preserve threatened buildings

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The county government is moving ahead with its review of the petition to designate Westover Village as a historic district. The Historic Affairs Landmark Review Board (HALRB) will shortly announce a public hearing next month in September 2016 allowing the public to speak about this historic designation review. Approximately 2-3 months after the HALRB completes this process. the Arlington County Board will hold follow up public hearing.

Greens and neighborhood residents will shortly deliver petitions the county government with over 100 signatures from Arlington residents calling for historic designation of Westover Village and a halt to more demolitions of buildings. There is still concern over more demolitions since two more apartment buildings appear about to be demolished to make way for more luxury townhouses. Construction permits have been filed with Arlington County for two buildings on North 10th Road near the Westover Park.

In the first week of August, an anonymous flyer was taped to the doors of detached houses in the Westover area with a series of erroneous claims against historic designation, such as owners would be unable to make any changes to their properties, historic designation would reduce the property value, historic designation discriminates against owners, and that property owners actually vote to approve or disapprove designation. All of these allegations are false. The authors of the flyer were anonymous and provided no substantiation of these claims which are contrary to county ordinance and national historic patterns.

In fact, owners may make exterior changes to their properties after approval from the county government (interior changes are permissible without permit); studies of historic districts indicate that designation raises property values; historic designation is a zoning procedure long upheld by the U.S. and Virginia Supreme Courts; and only members of the HALRB and the county board vote to approve or disapprove historic designation. Renters, neighbors, historians, property owners, and other Arlington residents may voice their opinions, but none actually vote.

Within the boundaries of the Westover Village, there are about 2,200 residents (based on the 2010 Census), of whom about 67 percent are renters and only 29 percent are owner-occupiers. About half of the households in Westover are single person-households; another nearly 25 percent are two-person households. Renters live not only in the 700 apartments, but also rent some of the detached houses and duplexes as well. Thus in the community of Westover Village, it is the well being of the tenants that is the most pressing concern for this community.

Greens and neighborhood residents will shortly be distributing a fact sheet to all of the 2,200 residents of Westover Village. A September community picnic is being planned at which Westover tenants and community supporters can gather for questions and for a celebration of the great community of Westover.

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June 21, 2016

Westover historic preservation efforts–meet with success in first step

Residents of Westover area and Arlington Greens went to the Arlington County Board on June 18 asking the board to initiate a study of local historic district protection for the Westover Village and to temporarily block any more demolitions of apartment buildings there. The board agreed to begin the process of historic study of Westover, but would not agree to temporarily block more demolitions.

Over the past 2 years about 7 apartment buildings were demolished in Westover, eliminating about 70 market rate affordable units. These apartments have existed for about 76 years and were surrounded by many hundred year old trees and vegetation. In their place will be million dollar townhouses with virtually no green space and virtually the entire surface area paved over.

The county government will hold a public community meeting in July to explain the legal process of designating the current national historic district of Westover Village as a local Arlington historic district. With a local historic district, buildings could not be demolished without being offered for sale to another investor for one year.westover apts demolition april 2016 pic2

Here is a map of the current national historic district of Westover:

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