• Next Meeting--Thursday, Nov. 6 7:00 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

October 14, 2014

Adding new schools in Arlington–follow Fairfax’s example and convert an office building

Development,schools — @ 12:06 pm

The Washington Post reported on October 13 about a new elementary school in Baileys Crossroads, Fairfax that is a former office building that can hold 800 students. The cost of the Baileys building including the $9 million cost of buying the empty office building was about $20 million for a student capacity of 795 (they have 700 students today). Baileys Elementary is considered one of the premier elementary schools in Fairfax County, specializing in art and music and drawing students from all over Fairfax as well as the Baileys Crossroads.

baileys elementary new school
(photo of new Baileys Elementary School, courtesy of Fairfax County Public Schools)

So an 800-student school cost $20 million; that’s about $25,000 per student. Arlington is building a new elementary at Williamsburg MS for a $73,000 per student cost, nearly 3 times the Fairfax cost, and the land there is free unlike Baileys.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/digger/wp/2014/10/08/what-to-do-with-dying-suburban-office-buildings-turn-them-into-schools/

Why can’t Arlington Public Schools buy an empty office building and convert it into a 800-student elementary like Fairfax for $20 million? Drive a hard bargain like FCPS did, and buy a vacant office building. Several months, we wrote an article for Arlington Greens about the over 25 percent office vacancy rate in Crystal City and Rosslyn and the need to recycle these empty office buildings into residential apartments and schools.

Suppose APS paid $20 million for a similar sized building in Crystal City or Rosslyn, and spent $14,000 per student to remodel it into a school like FCPS, a 800 student school would still cost only $32 million or $40,000 per student.

APS is spending $46 million to build the new elementary for only 630 students at the Williamsburg MS campus in 97,000 square feet of space, slightly smaller than the new Baileys Crossroads School. APS cost does not include any funds to buy an existing office building just construction costs using public land. Also, do they really think that only 690 students will enroll there?

http://www.apsva.us/Page/18930

So the cost per student is $46 million / 630 = $73,000 per student seat at the new Williamsburg ES

Arlington is supposed to add 6,000 more students over the next ten years; at $73k per student seat, the APS will need to spend about $440 million for 6,000 more seats. That would mean issuing $440 million in school bonds.

Tagged:

October 6, 2014

Arlington Greens Vote to Oppose All Four Arlington Bond Questions on the November Ballot

Arlington Greens Vote to Oppose All Four Arlington Bond Questions on the November Ballot

October 6, 2014

The Arlington Greens voted unanimously at their October 2nd meeting to ask Arlington voters to deny the four bonds on the ballot on November 4: the four bonds total $218 million, the largest being $106 million for Arlington Public Schools.

The Greens indicated that the bond questions on the ballot for voter approval or denial were too broad and non-specific, and were essentially blank checks to the Arlington School Board and to the Arlington County Board to spend money for undefined purposes and without any cost or engineering plans.

John Reeder the Arlington Greens chairman said, “Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School.” He added, “Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”

Reeder said the County Board similarly failed to specify for its three bond questions exactly where and how it will spend $61 million on transportation infrastructure, $13 million for local parks and recreation, and $39 million on “county facilities, information technology, and infrastructure.” He said, “voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”

Reeder added, “This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley.”

The Arlington Green Party has run candidates for the Arlington County Board for the past 8 years. This year it has endorsed, independent county board member John Vihstadt for election in the November election.

Tagged:

August 26, 2014

Smoke and mirrors on Arlington County Board environmental record

Development,environment — @ 8:56 am

Letter to the editor, the Washington Post from AGP chair John Reeder

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette boasts (Aug. 24, “Why Arlington joined the battle against climate change”) about Arlington’s record on climate change.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-arlington-joined-the-battle-against-climate-change/2014/08/22/3bb5a146-2314-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html

But in truth, Arlington’s environmental record is pretty shabby. Board members favor high-intensity, high-rise buildings despite their increased demand for electricity and water, while allowing developers to expand building footprints and increase paved surfaces. Some recently built county buildings are energy hogs, having failed to include state-of-the-art solar and geothermal systems (examples can be found on the Washington-Lee and Yorktown High School campuses). Arlington’s heat sink has increased rapidly as the mature tree canopy and green space have disappeared.

house with solar

LEED certification, for which developers receive “bonus” density, is oftentimes mostly cosmetic and lacking in solid environmental benefits. The Arlington County Board’s “smart growth” policy has triggered overdevelopment and the conversion of Arlington’s lower cost residential areas into neighborhoods only the wealthy can afford. This policy has forced thousands of moderate-income residents to flee to Woodbridge and beyond, exacerbating the very sprawl smart growth was supposed to halt and increasing traffic congestion and greehouse gas emissions.

Democrats like Fisette play environmental politics while excluding independent and third-party voters from meaningful participation that might result in actual improvements to Arlington’s environment. We need leaders in Arlington who support genuine green principals, not ones who just pretend.

John Reeder
Chairman of
the Arlington Green Party

Tagged:

July 26, 2014

County finances housing scam at William Waters Apartments–

william waters apt rosslyn va (William Waters Apartments from Wesley Housing Development Corporation)

On July 24, the county board approved a nearly $1 million loan to Wesley Housing Development Corporation to renovate 21 already subsidized apartments at the William Waters Apartments located on Adams Street off Lee Highway. These units were substantially renovated about 9 years ago, but Wesley Corporation will spend another $400,000 per unit to upgrade them. It will then raise the rents on the units, and then the county government will have to pay for the higher rent levels because the tenants cannot afford them! The new rents charged will not cheap–$1,130 for a one-bedroom and $1,330 for a two bedroom, but the tenants today cannot afford these new higher rents, so the county has to provide over $100,000 to pay part of the higher rents that go up because of the lavish renovation.

The county board’s decision to finance renovation of the William Waters Apartments, a garden apartment building off Lee Highway with 21 CAF units, and to finance tenant displacement costs is an example of Arlington’s wasteful approach to spend $400,000 per unit to renovate perfectly good apartments at William Waters.

There was no proven need to renovate the building; according to Wesley Housing Corporation’s webpage, these apartments were substantially renovated in 2005 with new kitchens, wall repairs, windows, smoke detection system, roof, rehabilitated electrical system, wall plaster and convectors.

And even if there is a need to renovate, a NEW apartment can be built for about $130,000 in the Washington DC region according RS Means, a construction expert firm. So how can $400,000 be spent in just renovation? Better to tear it down and build new apartments at one-quarter of this renovation cost of 50 year old modest units.

Today 9 years after the 2005 renovation, Wesley proposes to spend $8.2 million to again renovate 21 apartments at a unit cost of about $400,000 per unit. The hard construction cost is $100,000 per unit—about what a totally new unit would cost; the remaining $300,000 are soft costs, the developer’s fee, and repayment of past loans and financial costs. Spending $400,000 per unit to renovate apartments that are otherwise okay is wasteful.

Crony capitalism is the game being played with Arlington County housing program dollars. Tenants are made worse off and scarce taxpayer dollars given to insiders and their corporate friends.

There was $151,000 given to Wesley for a tenants assistance fund that would pay for their moving expenses and to pay the higher rents after they move back into the renovated units. Wesley bears responsibility for assisting and relocating their tenants, and not the county. Wesley in 1990 entered a contract with the county to supply 21 CAF apartments for 30 years, and has a contractual obligation to these tenants as well. Moreover, why does Wesley have to charge higher rents that its current tenants cannot afford to pay? This is not affordable housing but UNAFFORDABLE housing!

Tagged:

Million dollar subsidized apartments in Arlington, and crony capitalism and a gross waste of money

pierce queen apts (Photo from Wesely Housing Development Corporation)

The Arlington County Board on July 23, 2014 approved a nearly $7 million loan from the county’s affordable housing investment fund to Wesley Housing Corporation and its corporate partner Bozzuto to build a new apartment building with mostly luxury rental units at Pierce Queen Apartments in Rosslyn. The project is really not about affordable housing at all, but about a developer Bozzuto building a 12 story new commercial apartment building in Rosslyn with the county government and federal government financing it. It is really an stark example of the county’s failed housing program and another example of the county’s unaffordable housing program.

In brief, the project will cost about $36 million and will net the county government about 26 more subsidized units which is about $1.3 million per new unit! The county’s $7 million loan to the developer works out to about $250,000 per CAF unit. The kicker is that all the tenants living in the 78 subsidized units will then have to pay higher rent–and the county will have to pay part of the higher rents because the tenants do not earn enough money! So the county actually made things WORSE for tenants by allowing unneeded renovation.

The current Pierce Queen Apartments have 50 subsidized apartments, and 28 additional units (CAFs) will be added. Unfortunately the cost per new unit added is extraordinary high, and in addition rents will be raised in order to pay for these expensive new units.

The proposed project will have 78 CAFs, an addition of 28 CAFs. The total cost of the project is $35.6 million so the marginal cost of adding 28 new CAFs is $1,271,000 each. The unit cost for all 78 CAFs is $456,000. Either way, it is ridiculous to be paying either sum for a modest apartment.

In terms of the use of the county’s AHIF, the cost per new CAF is $250,000; the cost for the new CAFs and the current CAFs is lower $89,000 per unit. However, the 50 CAFs already at the complex were paid for years ago with federal and county financing and should not be counted.
The county government’s housing target is to add 400 new CAFs per year; last year the county added 55.

The 78 CAFs at Pierce Queen will be rented to higher income persons: 40 units to renters earning up to 50% AMI and 38 units for renters earning 60% AMI. This project will not meet the county’s housing target that at least 25% of new CAFs be affordable to people earning 40% AMI.

Is this the best deal the county government can get to add new CAFs in Arlington, and is this the best use of the limited AHIF funds? The county housing target is to add 400 new CAFs a year, and it cannot done at at a cost of a million bucks per unit nor even at $250,000 of AHIF funds per new unit. Four hundreds new CAF units at this rate would cost $100 million dollars in capital spending annually.

Wesley already received substantial county and federal funds to purchase and renovate Pierce Queen, and is contractually required to keep these 50 apartments for many years more. Why did the county government let Wesley out of its contractual agreement to provide 50 low cost CAFs?

The county Board needs to ask hard questions of your housing staff as to why these un-affordable housing projects are so expensive, and how it can find developers who can truly build affordable low cost apartments.

Tagged:

July 21, 2014

Affordable housing: county wastes dollars and accomplishes little

Arlington Green John Reeder spoke at the Arlington County Board meeting on July 19 about affordable housing.

Good morning members of the Board.

I am here today to discuss affordable housing and why giving away free public land to high cost government contractors is a bad idea, and failing to address high cost housing is a mistake.

In 2013, the county added only 55 CAFs or 14% of the 400 goal to the current 6,500 CAFs. The CAFs added were very expensive per unit, and land costs were often small or irrelevant to the high costs.

Look at two recent projects: The Carlyn Springs Apartments and the Arlington Mills Apartments.

In January 2014, you (the county board) gave an $8 million loan to APAH to build 71 new CAF apartments at the current Carlyn Springs Apts complex which APAH already owns. The average cost of the 71 CAFs was $538,000 each. APAH already owned the land so the cost of this land was free.

Then about 4 years ago, you gave APAH free public land at Arlington Mills site and loans to build 122 CAF apartments. The cost was $250,000 per unit. Most renters accepted earned over 60% of area median income ($67,000).

Nearly all of the for-profit and non-profit developers of CAFs in Arlington are very high cost and highly inefficient.

Free land does not mean low cost apartments.

The CAFs are so expensive that only higher income people can afford to rent, and, of course, then the county can only add 50 CAFs a year too few to meet our need.

The county board government needs to hire low cost builders; the Fairfax Housing Authority builds its CAFs in Fairfax County for $100,000 each which it then rents mainly to families earning under $40,000 a year.

Tagged:

Arlington Greens July 2014 picnic

Events — @ 2:27 pm

Great music from Still Standing Band at our picnic on July 20 at Potomac Overlook.

Below are Greens Kirit Mookerjee, Miriam Gennari and Steve Davis with John Vihstadt, independent county board member who attended as well. We support him in the coming November election and were a key part of his victory in last Springs electiongreens picnic july 2014

Tagged:

June 19, 2014

Arlington Green Party Endorses John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board on June 16

Candidates — @ 11:27 am

Press release: Arlington Green Party Endorses John Vihstadt for Arlington County Board on June 16

The Arlington Green Party AGP) at a special June 16 meeting voted to endorse independent county board member John Vihstadt for reelection on Nov. 4, 2014.

Arlington Greens had previously endorsed Vihstadt in April,
and he was elected to complete the remaining term of a vacant county
board seat. The November election is to fill that seat for the next
four years.

AGP chair John Reeder said,” that Greens believed that Vihstadt’s
policies are already making a difference on the County Board and are
consistent with many of the Green’s positions over the years, such as
opposition to a trolley on Columbia Pike and to other wasteful,
white-elephant projects, and support for environmental programs in
Arlington.”

Said Vihstadt in welcoming the endorsement, “The Arlington Green Party endorsement means that we are well on the way to replicating our fusion coalition that brought victory on April 8.”

The Arlington Greens had nominated candidates in county board elections for 7 consecutive years (2006-13,) but in 2014 decided to endorse fusion independent Vihstadt rather than nominate a Green member.

Tagged:

June 13, 2014

Don Beyer buys (“wins”) the 8th Congressional Democratic primary with $1.1 million with 17,700 votes at a cost of $62 per vote

political campaigns — @ 4:11 pm

The Democratic Party’s primary on June 10 proved once again that money talks and hot air walks: Don Beyer the Volvo dealer owner and millionaire spent over a million dollars to get about 17,800 votes (46 percent of 38,000 votes cast). The total votes cast were less than 10 percent of active registered voters in the 8th Congressional district that includes all of Arlington, the City of Alexandria, and a portion of Fairfax County. The eight leading candidates spent $4 million or $105 per vote cast to market themselves to voters. http://electionresults.virginia.gov/resultsSW.aspx?type=CON&map=CTY

http://www.fec.gov/disclosurehs/HSCandList.do

Beyer spent $61.80 per vote cast for him. He blanketed households of known Democratic-leaning voters with slick brochures, telemarketing calls, and extensive paid telemarketing campaign like he was selling a new Volvo sedan. Beyer’s nearest Democratic competitors were Arlington state delegate Patrick Hope who spent $268,000 and got 7,092 votes ($35 per vote received) and Alexandria state senator Adam Ebbin raised $291,000 and got 5,262 votes at $48 per vote received. The highest spending candidate per vote received was Laverne Chatman who spent $192 per vote received.

According to press reports, Beyer used his ties to Obama campaign donors to raise the big bucks as well as loaning his campaign $200,000 from his own pocket. Don Beyer may be a good businessman and nice man, but he is a multimillionaire, and a member of the top 1%, and his mind set and interests inevitably reflect the interests of that group. Most of us living here in Northern Virginia are working and middle class people, highly education with good incomes but clearly not millionaires and wealthy businessmen.

Will Beyer if he wins the general election understand the concerns of the bottom 99%–such as lack of middle class jobs and middle class income and help for young and unemployed people facing a bleak job market with heavy student debts? Will Beyer champion higher taxes on the upper 1% and middle class persons concerns that conflict with the rich and the corporations who got us into this economic mess? Will Beyer advocate for a higher carbon tax that will cut sales of Volvos, SUVs, and vehicles?

Candidates of the U.S. Green Party refuse to accept corporate or PAC funds. It will take the rise of an independent and progressive political party like the Greens with many successful candidates to begin to reform our corrupt political process. The Democratic and Republican Parties are essentially business organizations that rich people use to rise to power in order to protect the interests of the 1%.
vote1

Tagged:

June 10, 2014

Arlington parents and residents oppose building a new large sized middle school in Rosslyn at Wilson School site

Development,schools — @ 10:13 am

A group of parents and residents are circulating a petition to the APS board against a mega school proposed to cover most of the Wilson School site. Mark Antell, a Green members, heartily supports their perspective and recommend that civic minded citizens sign the petition.

The Arlington Green Party has NOT taken a position on this petition, but several Green members endorse this petition and oppose building a mega school at the Wilson School site. Community activists have mentioned other locations for a needed middle school in the county–for example, two closed schools–the Fairlington Community Center in south Arlington, and the Madison Recreation Center near Chain Bridge in north Arlington, as well as existing empty commercial office buildings in Crystal City, Rosslyn, and other locations.

wilson school photo2

Here’s the petition site

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/vote-no-to-1300-seat?source=s.icn.em.cp&r_by=10703771

Tagged:
Next Page »