• Please Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

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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August 27, 2016

Biophilic Cities: Incorporating Nature into Arlington’s Urban Landscape, Thur. Sept. 15, 5:30 PM, 2300 Wilson Blvd, Arlington

Development,environment — @ 10:08 am

Biophilic Cities: Incorporating Nature into Arlington’s Urban Landscape

How do humans benefit from being close to nature? How can we foster connections with nature as Arlington County becomes more urbanized? How will these connections improve livability and quality of life?

Join us to learn about the benefits of a Biophilic City and how Arlington can participate in this movement on Thurs. Sept. 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Navy League Building, 2300 Wilson Blvd, Arlington. Learn from Timothy Beatley, Professor of Sustainable Communities at University of Virginia School of Architecture and Stella Tarnay, Urban Planner and Co-founder, Biophilic DC.

Registration and networking are from 5:30-6 p.m. with light refreshments.
Sponsored by Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Environmental Services.
For information E-mail: hreinecke-wilt@arlingtonva.us

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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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May 18, 2016

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

SAVE HISTORIC WESTOVER FROM DEMOLITION
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

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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.

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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

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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.

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March 4, 2016

Expanding the living wage in Arlington–a good approach to helping working people in Arlington

Development,Jobs — @ 1:02 pm

The Arlington County manager has proposed to the Arlington County Board as part of its annual budget adoption that it increase the living wage of $13.13 per hour (the minimum wage for county employees and for certain contractor employees working in a county building) to $14.50 an hour. At 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, such a wage yields $30,000 in gross income (before taxes).

The living wage is based on the federal poverty income needed for a single person to live slightly above the poverty level. In Arlington according to database from a MIT professor, a single person living in Arlington would need to spend $26,430 a year to live without public subsidies, mainly $14,000 for housing; $3,000 for food, $2,300 for medical, and $4,600 for transportation. http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/51013
For a single parent with one child, living expenses in Arlington are much higher at $48,000 or $26 per hour (before taxes), as childcare would cost about $7,000 a year.

help wanted newspaper ad

Arlington Greens support the proposed increase in the rate of the living wage, but also believe the ordinance should be expanded to cover ALL contractor employees of Arlington County including healthcare aides, employees of nonprofits, and employees of private companies that receive tens of millions of dollars of local funds of economic development subsidies. Last November, for example, the county board gave $50 million in county funds to the Ballston shopping center developer to rebuild and develop a new shopping center that will employ hundreds of low paid retail clerical employees, food service workers and cleaning crews. Many of the low paid employees will then be eligible for a range of county safety net subsidies ranging from food assistance, free or reduced lunch for their children, and housing assistance.

The current Arlington county ordinance on the living wage does not require the payment of a living wage to organizations that contract with the county and provide these services outside a county-owned facility. Thus, most nonprofit organizations do not provide a living wage routinely. Employees of group homes that are privately operated are not routinely paid a living wage. Healthcare aides working in a disabled person’s home are not required to receive a living wage.

In essence, low wage employers shift their employment costs onto the public taxpayers by paying less than a minimum poverty income. Arlington County development funds that come from Arlington county residents should NOT be used to attract and keep low wage employers in Arlington. The county should require that companies getting these funds guarantee that all its employees receive at least a living wage.

In 2015 according to data of the Virginia Employment Commission, the average wage in the retail stores, entertainment, and food/hotel service in Arlington in 2015 was about $500 per week or $13 per hour, with many such employees making far less than $13 per hour or unable to work a full 40 hours a week. These three industries employed 27,000 people or 16 percent of total Arlington employment of 169,000. Thus, today about one out of every six employees working in Arlington are in a low wage industry. http://virginialmi.com/report_center/community_profiles/5104000013.pdf

Arlington County planning and community development staff have indicated in the past that every new high rise commercial office building in Arlington will generate over 50 low wage jobs that would entitle the employee to county subsidies, particularly housing assistance. The county’s economic development philosophy should be to discourage such low wage jobs and such associated development.

Arlington Greens have long supported the living wage which has been in effect in Arlington since about 2006. We support raising the living wage to at least $14.50 and support expanding its coverage to all employees of private contractors of the county government and to private employees of companies receiving large amounts of county development funds, such as at the Ballston Shopping Center.

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January 5, 2016

County Board overpaid more than twice the actual costs for the latest subsidized housing project on Columbia Pike

On December 12, 2015, the Arlington County Board approved giving about $19 million in local housing funds and up-zoning of a property to high-rise commercial development to create a new subsidized housing project with 173 apartments in two 7-story buildings on Columbia Pike. The county board approved this Arlington Presbyterian Church (APC) housing project despite evidence that the land cost was above other commercial sites, and the construction cost was more than double what an apartment should cost in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. A private nonprofit organization APAH and a pool of private investors and developers will build and own this project.

Then county board chairman Mary Hynes said during the board’s public discussion of the APC project that the $8.5 million cost of the) property was reasonable even though the county’s assessed tax value was half this amount $4.3 million. She said that a price of $5 million per acre is a reasonable for land already zoned for commercial use.
arl presbyterian church jan 16 pic3

Unfortunately, the county board paid a price of $7.1 million per acre. The property was not zoned for high-rise commercial use and thus worth far less. However, even using Ms. Hynes’ inflated price of $5 million/acre, the county should have only paid $6 million for the land, and thus overpaid $2.5 million or 42 percent.

The county staff report to the county board indicated APAH and the APC had privately and earlier agreed to the $8.5 million, and they asserted without proof that the commercial value of the property was really $10 million or about double the price of other commercial land in the county. Without substantiation of these ten million dollars, one can only conclude this is wishful thinking and hyperbole.

The county was NOT a party to the negotiation of this $8.5 million price, and had no assessment of the property’s value. The county was negligent in not obtaining its own independent assessment of the property as then zoned for residential and church use only.
APAH’s pool of private investors will actually own the project and land, and the county government did not become the legal owner of the property even though the count paid for the land. APAH and its investors are going to sell off residential lots behind the new buildings for single family homes. Some of this space is already used for a tot lot and for green space that will be lost. This land could have been kept for a small park and retaining green space for the neighborhood if the county government owned the property. With probably 300 tenants including children living in the new project, this park would have been used and sorely needed.
arl presbyterian church jan 16 pic3

The construction costs for the APC project are well above what industry sources indicate are multifamily apartment costs. A well known industry leader R.S. Means Company has estimated that hard construction cost of a new apartment in a 4-7 story building in the DC Metro region is between $172-200 per square foot. The cost per unit of the APC project was $395 per square foot. Thus, APC construction costs are twice what a new apartment should cost in the DC Metro area. Total hard construction costs for the APC project were about $41 million for 173 apartments or $237,000 per apartment which is roughly $395 per square foot for a 600-square foot apartment.
The combined over-costs for just land and hard construction costs (not even considering the other inflated costs) were about $22 million for a total project cost of $67 million.

Arlington Greens have asked the county board on several occasions to use competitive bidding to avoid overpaying for construction of new CAF projects such as these, but they always choose to use a sole source contractor. Other county construction projects are all bid and given to the low cost bidder. This is irresponsible stewardship of scarce county funds for housing assistance.

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