• The next meeting will be on Thursday, July 2, 2015 7:00 PM at the Community Room of the Ballston Firehouse Station (located at Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive).

June 1, 2015

Arlington County to sell Reeves farmland–Greens say sale is a bad idea

Development,environment — @ 8:42 am

The Arlington County Board voted the week of May 20, 2015 on a divided 3-2 vote to sell the historic, 90-year old Reeves Farm House located next to the Bluemont Park in Arlington. Arlington Greens oppose this decision.
reeves farm house arlington va Photo: courtesy of Michael Pope, Arlington Considers Future Of Its Last Dairy Farm, July 11, 2011, WAMU Radio, http://wamu.org/news/11/07/25/arlington_considers_future_of_its_last_dairy_farm.php

The accelerated, sparsely publicized final decision to sell the Reeves’ farmhouse to a private enterprise is distressing. Government transparency and historic preservation are two core values of the Arlington Green Party. The sale of this farmhouse (circa 1900) does not uphold these principles.

While the AGP has yet to take an official stand, I feel that not maintaining the Reevesland farmhouse misses educational opportunities to teach at-risk students hands-on, marketable skills of restoration and preservation. Skills such as these are transformative and can provide a less traditional student with a passion to learn.

The Reeve’s farm house could have also been transformed into a place that the public might pay to visit, thus creating a destination for tourists and generating tourism revenue for Arlington. Internships to learn and assist with the inner workings of a living museum could have provided other practical skills for children.

Sandra Hernandez
Marie Pellegrino
Arlington Green Party Co-Chairs

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April 19, 2015

Observations from Mark Antell, a longtime Green and community activist on the County Board’s meeting on April 18 on the Wilson School Building in Rosslyn

Wilson School

Wilson School

I attended the County Board meeting this AM (April 18). Almost all business was focused on my neighborhood greenspace: the Wilson School and adjoining Rosslyn Highlands Park. To no ones surprise, the plan emerging from today’s meeting remains: ‘knock down the historic school, cede parkland to a developer (in exchange for his building a firestation). Walt Tejada was the sole dissenting voice, a tongue far less silver than the rest of speakers, but far more honest.

I was particularly disturbed by Mr. Vihstadt’s arguments. He spoke highly of the “robust” (his words) Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) which the county set up to engage the community on plans for this site. But WRAPS wasn’t ‘robust.’ Most of my community, most community activists throughout Arlington, know that WRAPS was a staged event to provide cover for a prearranged deal. Most WRAPS meetings occurred after the County had already secretly signed an MOU to cede land to the developer. On one occasion the WRAPS process slipped and allowed citizens a poll. Participants voted overwhelmingly against putting a road through a diminished Rosslyn Highlands park. But the road is still in the plans.

I recommend we think long and hard about ever endorsing Mr. Vihstadt again.

Mark Antell

Rosslyn resident and long-time member AGP

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March 4, 2015

Columbia Hills Apts: affordable housing for the well to do

solar panels commercialComments of John Reeder, treasurer of Arlington Greens, speaking at the county board hearing on Feb. 24, 2015 (these comments do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arlington Green Party):

Dear County Board members:

I oppose the approval of the zoning request and the $20 million in county AHIF funds to build these two apartment buildings in west Columbia Pike area located at 1010 S. Frederick Street, off Columbia Pike. APAH a nonprofit developer has requested about $20 million in county loans from the Arlington Housing Investment Fund (AHIF).

I have spoken several times against excessively costly affordable housing projects that are simply not affordable to low income people in Arlington. This is yet another such wasteful project. Please reject this proposal and send APAH back to the drawing board to come up with lower priced units for low income persons, namely those earning below 40-percent of the area median income (AMI) which is roughly $30,000 to $43,000 a year income).
Please read over details in the staff report presented to you:

l. 80 percent of the 229 units in the two new buildings are only affordable to persons earning above 60-percent AMI ($45,000 for a single person and $64,400 for a family of four).

2. Only 4 percent of the units are affordable to low income persons making less than 40-percent AMI. You have set your housing goal that at least 25% of new CAF units be affordable to 40-percent AMI renters: NONE of the AHIF projects for new CAFs have come close to your 25% goal.

3. Each new unit will cost about $$394,000 each–nearly four hundred thousand bucks. The $90 million total cost is very high–$7 million in developers fee, $6 million in “soft costs,” and $10 million in land/acquisition costs. The hard construction costs are $67 million or $227,000 per apartment which are well above Washington, DC regional costs. Are they building the Taj Mahal or affordable basic housing?

4. The land is quite expensive at $10 million or $44,000 per apartment. APAH claimed publicly that it owns the parking lot land and that the land is free. In fact, it does not own the land at all and it will cost taxpayers $10 million to buy a parking lot in western Columbia Pike. There are entire commercial buildings for sale in that area for less than $10 million.

Approving AHIF projects to build very expensive new CAFs which ipso facto cannot be rented to low income people in Arlington is a terrible waste of our public local dollars that could be used better t provide other forms of housing assistance to the needy rather than subsidies for developers and contractors like APAH.

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February 4, 2015

Battle for Brooklyn community continues in 2015 with Arlington very similar

We Greens showed the documentary Battle for Brooklyn last week at Central Library despite snow and bitter cold and we had a good turnout. The documentary highlighted the fight of community activists in Brooklyn to prevent the demolition and displacement of many moderate income renters and home owners to allow the building of a billion dollar project for a NBA basketball arena (now called the Barclays Center) and new luxury and so-called “affordable housing.”

The New York Times article in their February 4 edition, , Vivian Yee and Mirreya Navarro, “Some see risk in de Blasio bid to add housing,” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/nyregion/an-obstacle-to-mayor-de-blasios-affordable-housing-plan-neighborhood-resistance.html provides an interesting historical follow up to what happened to Brooklyn later and now that a progressive de Blasio replaced billionaire Michael Bloomburg as mayor. Bloomburg was an advocate for the sports arena and openly said he wanted more millionaires in New York, as the article describes:

“….But many New Yorkers feel that projects from the era of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg like Pacific Park, a multi-building complex around the Barclays Center formerly called Atlantic Yards, did not deliver on their promises of affordable housing quickly or comprehensively enough.”

NYC new mayor De Blasio says he wants to build more affordable housing, but like Arlington, this affordable housing is not affordable for most low income and even middle income renters. Now Brooklyn community activists are calling for no development at all if the only alternative is high rise buildings that mainly house high income person–80 percent luxury housing and 20 percent “affordable.”

The article indicates,
“Another common concern is that the financing deals to build affordable units do not serve those who need them most: extremely low-income residents making 30 percent or less of the area’s median income, or less than $26,000 a year for a family of four in the city’s five boroughs and Westchester County. Most new affordable units are now open to households in the range of 60 percent of the area’s median income.”

This is the rule for Arlington’s affordable housing–60% AMI is the minimum income needed to get into Arlington’s subsidized units.

Same development patterns here–promise affordable housing in the middle of a luxury project.

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November 15, 2014

Providing public land and public funds to Arlington housing providers does not help tenants

Arlington Greens chair John Reeder spoke to the Arlington County Board on November 14, 2014
(his testimony was his own responsibility)

Good morning members of the board.
I am here to talk about affordable housing assistance and to caution you against just naively giving away public land to developers who fail to actually produce affordable rental apartments under the AHIF program.

AHIF is so ineffectual that it should be abolished, and its funding instead go to the housing grants program which directly and transparently helps mainly lower income people in Arlington. No public land and no more public funds should go to these developers.

The $12 million spent for the AHIF program in 2014 is really welfare for crony developers and delivers few benefits (in the form of lower rents and significantly more apartments) to tenants in Arlington.

In FY 2014, Arlington County spends $37 million from its local revenues for housing assistance, the largest category being the affordable housing investment fund (AHIF) with $12 million, and the second category being direct housing grants ($8 million).

The $12 million spent for AHIF may add at most 125 new CAF units this year (last year only 55 were added), and probably rent for $100 or so per month less than at market rate complexes, yielding a total benefit to low income renters of $150,000 a year. Even over 30 years, AHIF provides far fewer benefits even than its costs.

The new apartments added under the AHIF are very expensive; their rents charged are close to or at market rate rents; and the households served earning generally 60-percent of the area median income ($65,000 for a family of four).

On the other hand, the $8 million spent for housing grants directly and transparently helps about 1,200 households with about $500 per month each in lower rents paid. Its cost equals its benefits.

Households getting a housing grant earn no more than $46,000 (for a family of four), and must be 65 years or older, disabled, clients of county DHS programs (such as formerly homeless) or a working family with a child. Housing grants go to Arlington residents who are the most needy in our community.

The $12 million used today for AHIF could alternatively provide 2,000 households with a monthly rental grant of $500 versus 125 households receiving a $100 a month rent reduction in a new AHIF unit.

What is the better use of scarce local tax revenues to help low income Arlington residents?

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November 7, 2014

Rosslyn residents protest Wilson development of park, Sat. Nov. 8, 8:30 am at Key Elementary

Development,environment,Events — @ 10:43 am

wilson school photo2
Rosslyn residents gather to fight elimination of Wilson School greenspace

The Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) has proceeded over the past year toward its pre-designated conclusion to develop the Wilson site (School, Park, Playfields). The WRAPS recommendations are terrible for the Rosslyn community: preservation is dismissed, most of the site would be intensely developed with access roads and tall buildings; and very very little open space would be preserved for park and recreation. This in a community which is densely populated and provides limited public green space.

Upcoming on Saturday (tomorrow) starting at 8:30 AM at Key Elementary, county staff will lead a four and one half hour (!!!) presentation of WRAPS plans including some limited opportunity for citizen comment.

Rather than sitting through hours of power-point nonsense, a few of us plan instead to stand at the entrance handing out printed notices bearing statements like:

“Preserve Wilson School and Fields”

“Develop our Park ?? That’s Nuts !”

“Preserve our limited Green Space !”

I recommend people come to the meeting timely; grab a sign; hold it up awhile once you get inside; and then leave. You’ll do something to save our park, and you’ll save your Saturday for family and personal responsibilities.

Mark Antell

Co-chair of the CivFed Parks and Recreation Committee

CivFed delegate from the North Rosslyn Civic Association

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October 20, 2014

Arlington school bonds–not ready for approval

Development,schools — @ 5:15 pm

westover library-reed school
(photo of Reed School with Westover Library)

Arlington Greens chairman speech to Arlington Council of PTAs, on Oct. 20, 2014

Good evening members of Arlington PTAs. Let me congratulate you for your volunteer work to improve our community’s public education.

I am John Reeder, an Arlington resident, graduate of Yorktown High School, father of three daughters all graduates of Arlington Public Schools, and chairman of the Arlington Green Party. My wife was a 40-year Fairfax elementary school teacher, and my daughter teaches English in Washington, D.C.

I support spending for public education for all children and excellent salaries for our teachers and school staff. I support capital spending to provide more class rooms, but cannot support throwing money at capital projects without foresight and planning.

I urge you and other Arlington voters to reject the $105.8 million dollar school bond on the November ballot.

Here’s the short answer as to why voters should vote no: the school system is not ready to thoughtfully spend $106 million to add seats to last 30 years.
We voters cannot trust APS to effectively invest these funds without a detailed and a comprehensive plan that parents, educators, and the community all can support. Unfortunately, the APS has failed to accurately project enrollment and capacity over the past two decades.
The board should first prepare a specific plan that supports students and educational programs and adds seats, with engineering and reasonable cost estimates. Then ask voters for an adequate bond for very specific projects, be it for $106 million or $306 million.

Capital funds do not immediately produce new seats. We should not hurry to waste and misapply one hundred million dollars building the wrong or too small schools, and then have to rebuild the same schools in five years. Just 5 years ago, a new, $100 million W-L high school was opened for 1,500 students, but now has 2,046 students.

The school board spends over $500 million annually for operating costs, and now without a detailed, engineering plan, it will get another $106 million to spend somewhere and hope for the best.

There is confusion and missing leadership among school board members and the superintendent. There will be two new school board members this year; parents and PTAs are still divided over where and how new seats should be added. The school board failed to timely adopt a CIP which would have settled the capacity expansion.

There are many unanswered questions:
Will HB Woodlawn move to the Reed School or to a new Wilson site?
Will APS build a new elementary school next to TJ Middle School?
Where should more seats be added and how?
Can we preserve green space around our schools?
Will engineering plans reduce the carbon footprint of new buildings?
Can APS reduce the over $70,000 cost of adding one seat?

Voters: Please reject this bond request.

APS should come back to voters in a year and provide citizens with a well thought out, detailed plan to address the enrollment increase, and then present a detailed bond question to voters so that we in the community can make an informed decision.
Thank you

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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.

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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

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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!

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