• Please Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

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


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.

Digital Camera

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.


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

Digital Camera

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

Digital Camera

Digital Camera



August 17, 2016

Westover Historic Preservation: Efforts move ahead to preserve threatened buildings

Digital Camera

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.


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:



May 18, 2016

Saving Historic Westover Village–Community meeting Tue. May 31 at Westover Public Library

Community Meeting Tue. May 31, 7 PM at Westover Library

Many historic Westover apartment buildings over the past year were demolished, evicting residents and destroying green space and 100-year old trees. Westover has been designated since 2005 as a national historic district in a futile effort to protect our buildings and neighborhood from excessive development, but this did not stop this senseless demolition. Residents want the county government to now protect existing buildings from demolition by designating the Westover area as a county historic district.

Come to a neighborhood meeting to find out how we can together maintain the current historic neighborhood of Westover with its trees, green space, and 75-year old buildings, and its mix of small commercial properties, homeowners, and renters as it has been since 1940.

Where: Westover Public Library

When: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 @ 7 PM

Who: Joan Lawrence, chair of the Historic Architectural Review Board
(HALRB) will describe obtaining local historic district protectionwestover apts demolition april 2016 pic2

Sponsors: the Arlington Greens and the Westover Civic Association
For more information: Email Info@greensofarlington.org


May 5, 2016

Historic moderate rental Westover apartments demolished to make way for luxury townhouses

westover apts demolition april 2016 pic2

westover apts demolition april 2016 pic1Approximately five 76 year old garden apartment buildings in the historic district of Westover are being demolished this spring to make way for townhouses to be sold for close to a million dollars. These approximately 60 apartments (mostly one and two bedroom units) in these buildings were rented for moderate income renters. Even though these historic buildings are over 75 years old, well maintained graceful structures with many older trees surrounding (including some 100 year old trees), and are in the center of a National Historic District, they were bulldozed down to the red clay to make way for million dollar townhouses for the well to do.

These market-rate affordable garden apartments are privately owned; the owner demolished them and is putting up luxury townhouses that can be done “by right” under the existing zoning and since the county government refused to intervene to save them under its historic preservation ordinance. Last year about two blocks away another 4-5 historic garden apartment buildings were demolished to make way for similar high end townhouses. There are fewer than 3,000 private affordable rental apartment left in the entire Arlington County, and in one demolition, the county lost 60 more units.
The county board has stubbornly refused to use historic preservation status as a means to keep older apartments and older detached homes throughout Arlington.

Today developers routinely bulldoze off an entire property including all trees even if 100 years old and put up monstrous sized McMansions and ugly townhouses like these. The tree canopy and green space in many Arlington neighborhoods is much reduced; graceful 60 or 70 old houses are dwarfed by looming McMansions that are gigantic energy hogs and spew rainwater the used to percolate into the soil into the streets and onto neighbor’s properties.

An Arlington Green member asked the county board to designate to extend county historic preservation to the entire Westover Historic District to prevent future demolition of historic properties and surrounding green space. Under the county historic ordinance, an owner seeking to demolish a building must seek offer the property for sale for one year prior to such demolition allowing another owner to emerge to keep the property intact.


April 27, 2016

Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Taskforce to speak on DC ban of foam food containers, at May 5th Greens meeting

Arlington Greens will meet on May 5, 7:30 PM, at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room, and have invited Mike Ewall of the Energy Justice Taskforce to speak about the 2016 D.C. ban on commercial use of foam food containers. Mike Ewall is a longtime environmental activist and founder of the Energy Justice Taskforce. Everyone is invited to attend on May 5. The Ballston Firehouse is located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive, about 1 mile from the Ballston Metro station.

For more information on Mike Ewall, please go to this website http://www.energyjustice.net/mikeewall

We will discuss later in the meeting the following topics: Greens sponsorship of a used shoe donation drive to support clean water projects in lesser developed countries; enacting a ban in Arlington of single use plastic bags and food food containers; status of school board and county board races, civic events in Arlington, and the recent demolition of historic affordable rental apartments in Westover area


April 8, 2016

Arlington’s housing program and the public school student achievement gap between north and south Arlington

Letter to the Arlington County Board April 7, 2016

Thank you again for meeting with the Greens regarding housing grants and other issues several weeks ago. We wanted to provide you some concrete data that can be instrumental in your consideration of expanding the housing vouchers program in the future. These numbers connect housing and education.

Academic achievement gap between North Arlington and west Pike schools is wide
Data illustrate there is a large achievement gap between south Arlington and North Arlington public schools. For example, below are the Standards of Learning (SOL) results for 2015/16 (three year average) for two south Arlington elementary schools on the west end of Columbia Pike, Barcroft Elementary and Carlin Springs Elementary. Both of these typically feed into Kenmore MS. The west end of the Pike has a large concentration of private market-rate affordable housing and committed affordable subsidized units (CAFs).
By contrast, if one examines the scores of students in some North Arlington schools (Tuckahoe Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School) the scores are much higher; results are the passing rate in percentage of students tested. https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard/
There are far fewer market-rate affordable and CAFs in North Arlington where SOL scores are highest.
Tuckahoe Barcroft Carlin Spring Kenmore Williamsburg APS avg. all students
English 92% 82 80 73 91 86
Math 92% 81 90 80 94 87
Science 95% 71 72 74 95 85
Share of students receiving
free or reduced lunch 3% 61 82 52 9 30

The share of students receiving free or reduced lunch is a widely accepted indicator of poverty among students; source: APS for October 2015 http://apsva.us//site/Default.aspx?PageID=33492

Young Graduates

The gap between the north and south Arlington elementary schools is as much as 24 percentage points on science, and as much as 12 percent points on English and math. The economic disparity as reflected in the share of students receiving free or reduced lunch is as much as 79 percentage points. There are almost no students receiving free lunch in the North Arlington elementary school, whereas between 61-82 percent of the two South Arlington School students receive free lunch.

This economic and academic gap persists in middle schools. Nearly half of Kenmore Middle School students receive subsidized lunch. About 9% percent of North Arlington Williamsburg Middle School receives meal assistance.
Academic research is clear that the socioeconomic status of the school does affect academic outcomes. For example, Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation states, in A New Hope for School Integration, “In the last decade, the research has become even more convincing. A 2010 review of 59 studies on the relationship between a school’s SES (socioeconomic status) and outcomes in math found consistent and unambiguous evidence that higher school poverty concentrations are linked with less learning for students irrespective of their age, race, or family’s SES.” https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Kahlenberg.pdf

Test scores of Arlington students above illustrate this situation.

Housing Grants are distributed countywide; they do not concentrate lower income recipients to a few neighborhoods. A larger number of housing grants would create economic diversity throughout the county; subsequently schools in all of Arlington would become more pluralistic. Rather than concentrating lower income students in a few schools along Columbia Pike where most recent CAFs have been built (e.g. Arlington Mills, Columbia Gardens, and Arlington Presbyterian Church site), children all over Arlington could learn together in a neighborhood school and live side by in the same neighborhoods.

No CAF units were built in north and northwest Arlington in the past four years
Over the past 10 years, the county has not met its housing target of geographically distributing new CAFs across the county. In the past four years, the county added about 1,200 new CAFs; none were added north of Lee Highway and in northwest Arlington. The county’s housing target was to add 300 new CAF units (25% of total new CAFs) in those areas—none were added.
http://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/02/Annual-Affordable-Housing-Targets-Report-FY-2015.pdf page 26.

The current AHIF program enhances economic segregation. Economic segregation is associated with income inequality and even more so than with wage inequality. Its effects appear to compound those of economic inequality and may well be more socially, and economically deleterious than inequality alone. See Richard Florida, City Lab, “America’s most economically segregated cities,” http://www.citylab.com/work/2015/02/americas-most-economically-segregated-cities/385709/.

The result of Arlington’s current residential pattern in private housing is widening economic segregation among students in Arlington public schools. Moving forward, affordable public housing projects and programs should include integration that would result in the same in public schools without the necessity of the school board’s redrawing school boundaries.
We Greens believe that expanding housing grants across our community will decentralize lower income tenants, and dramatically help our public schools narrow the very wide achievement gap that better teaching methods and teachers alone cannot solve. The unintended consequence of our current AHIF program is to concentrate lower income students in already struggling public schools in a narrow section of our 22-square mile county.

The Arlington Greens


March 30, 2016

Raising $7 million more for Arlington housing grants through higher fees on developers

How to raise $7 million more for the county housing grants program through a higher developers’ fee

Under the 2005 Affordable Housing Ordinance, the county requires developers of new housing projects needing or requesting a zoning change for the project to provide that at least 5 percent of the additional apartments added as a result of the zoning change to be “affordable rental units” or to pay a fee. Unfortunately, this ordinance was not tightly written, and, for the most part, developers do not provide new affordable units on site, but rather pay a modest fee that amounts often to a portion of the actual cost of the new apartment. (for more information http://housing.arlingtonva.us/development/land-use-zoning-tools/)

The county board could increase the required fee under the ordinance much closer to actual costs of new apartments. This could generate an estimated $7 million more annually to the housing program. Developers exacerbate the problem of rising rents in our community by their activities, and it is fair to shift some of the tax burden of housing assistance programs to them rather than to only general taxpayers.

During 2005-October 2014, a total 295 additional units were approved under this ordinance, of which only 30 units were located in the new developments, whereas developers choose to pay a fee for the 265 units not provided in the new developments. (Source: Arlington County Affordable Housing Implementation Framework, Draft 2.1, Mar. 10, 2015, p. 9).

Thus, this ordinance applied to an average 30 new units per year. These fees yielded only $36.2 million during the 10 years or $3.6 million annually, the equivalent of $137,000 per new additional apartment. These funds were simply added to the AHIF.

This Affordable Housing Ordinance fee should be changed to increase the per unit fee from $137,000 to the developer’s actual cost per unit which currently is around $350,000 or more per unit. With a fee of at least $350,000 per unit for 30 units, the county would likely receive $10.5 million annually, an increase of $6.9 million a year from the current $3.6 million. This entire additional $6.9 million annually could be placed in the housing grants fund.


Next Page »