• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 at 7:30 pm at the Community Room of the Arlington County Fire Station 2 Ballston, 4805 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA 22203

July 17, 2017

Proposed new Lubber Run Recreation Center: Too big and too expensive

Development,environment — @ 3:42 pm

The Arlington County Board is considering a replacement building for the Lubber Run Recreation Center at its July 18th meeting. Neighborhood activist and environmentalist Suzanne Smith Sundburg and others have commented that the new building will destroy hundreds of nearby trees and open green space and intrude into the nearby natural area along the run nearby and have negative impact on storm water. Also the proposed new building would be one of the most expensive rec centers ever built.

Lubber Run Rec Center, courtesy Arlington County

Here is the Suzanne’s public letter to the Arlington County Board:

July 17, 2017

Dear Chair Fisette and members of the Arlington County Board:

For the reasons outlined below, I respectfully request that you defer taking action on item 52 (Lubber Run Community Center – Endorsement of the Conceptual Design) on the County Board’s July 18, 2017, meeting agenda. Due to work commitments, I may be unable to comments in person on Tues. I ask that these comments (including attachments) be added to the public record for this item.

Whereas I welcome the very modest reduction in building footprint and other changes that staff released at 4:20 pm on Friday, the fact remains that “If the Board endorses the final design concept, the building layout and massing remain fixed.”—per the staff report.

Staff’s July 14 listserv message is remarkably free of detail. For example, it fails to mention any reduction in the number of trees (previously reported: 124) that are to be removed. Without more detail, it is impossible to know whether staff’s changes will result in any consequential reduction in the environmental harm to the site.

Essentially, the public is being denied an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on the design even though significant issues remain. Here are my concerns: 1) flawed process, 2) environmental impact and 3) cost.

Process Issues

Staff also appears to have ignored a request from the Public Facilities Review Committee. Below is an excerpt from a PFRC 5-16-17 letter (attached):

Notification for PFRC meetings should be distributed to the larger Lubber Run listserv as there is room for public comment at the meeting.

According to a resident who is on the LRCC listserv, he received no announcements of PFRC meetings. And in one instance, staff scheduled an LRCC public meeting that conflicted with a PFRC meeting also being held to review the LRCC project.

Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for. Namely, staff’s open-ended survey encouraged wishful thinking (without providing any reality-driven cost or environmental impact information). Not surprisingly, staff received a wide range of sometimes-conflicting aspirations and desires. However, there was one consistent and clearly expressed theme:

Save the site’s trees and make environmental protection/habitat preservation a priority.

In Appendix A (at the bottom) are comments extracted from the first 13 responses (out of the 66 identified respondents) — a 20% sample — to staff’s survey. They document strong community commitment to preserving natural habitat and environmental conservation on the LRCC site.

This community’s desires are consistent with the countywide survey results reported in the draft Public Spaces Master Plan; see p.58, Figure 17. Arlingtonians are hungry for nature and green space, not more built infrastructure and pavement. Yet, staff consistently chooses pricey, expensive-to-maintain built infrastructure over less expensive, more flexible, environmentally sound and sustainable recreational options.

Surprisingly, neither the PFRC letter nor the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group letter (attached) was uploaded to the project page or made available as part of staff’s report. Had I not asked about the geotechnical engineering/borings report, it, too, never would have seen the light of day. The public and County Board members deserve to have timely access to all relevant information (whether or not it supports staff’s position) before being asked to make decisions of this magnitude.

Environmental Considerations

I’ve already discussed with the County Manager (message attached), the remarkably similar conditions on the LRCC site to the Ashlawn Elementary School site, where the steep grade, removal of approx. 100 trees and expansive soil disturbance/site re-grading have exacerbated runoff and triggered ongoing stormwater management failures — including erosion and sediment problems that add to water quality and flood risk issues for nearby Four Mile Run.

The E2C2, NRJAG and PFRC letters were consistent in their pleas for tree preservation, habitat conservation and an environmentally sound plan/design, with the PFRC saying:

PFRC members would generally like to receive more information on the trees that would be lost for each of the schemes and generally believes that existing trees and landscape should take precedent over manmade landscape and newly planted trees wherever possible. …

The draft geotechnical engineering (borings) report clearly documents water on the site. Specifically pp. 11–13 go into great detail describing possible remedies for hydrostatic pressure and water around the building’s footings.

Absent from the report is any information about flow tests, which would determine roughly how much water is flowing beneath the site, its speed and direction. Water doesn’t disappear when you place obstructions in its path. It simply goes elsewhere. But when you don’t know how much water there is or where the water is coming from and going to, how can proper choices be made? It’s a bit like a doctor deciding to operate without first taking x-rays or an MRI of the area in question.

Likewise, staff’s remark about the project’s meeting the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance and the Stormwater Management Ordinance rings with irony. As we have all seen on the Ashlawn site — where these regulations applied and yet significant environmental degradation resulted — these assurances are meaningless.

Staff appears to take the position that if something isn’t prohibited by law or regulation, then it must be acceptable. This reasoning matches the justifications provided by Martin Shkreli for price-gouging lifesaving medicine and Donald Trump, Jr., for meeting with Russian agents.

Laws and regulations are not substitutes for exercising sound judgment, informed decision-making and employing basic common sense. And I hope that the County Board will hold staff to a higher standard that meets the county’s goals and objectives to protect the environment rather than the low bar of the law.

Cost

The $47.86 million in “total cost” appears to be on the high side. Even accounting for the parking garage by doubling the maximum building square footage to110,000 sq ft, the price tag comes to over $430 per square foot. That is almost 4 times the “high” estimate for constructing a community center in Arlington. VA, using BuildingJournal.com’s online construction-cost estimating tool:

Community Center Construction Cost Estimate – BldgJournal.jpg

Summary

Given the similar circumstances and undesirable results on the Ashlawn Elementary School site, neither staff nor the County Board can claim ignorance if they permit a repeat on the Lubber Run Community Center site. This time, as I understand it, there won’t even be a use permit to govern what occurs on this site, giving staff a completely free hand. Again, I ask County Board members to defer approval of the project’s design in order to obtain public feedback. I also ask the Board to use the extra time to request that the County Manger come back in September to produce a list of proactive steps staff will take to ensure that the failures on the Ashlawn site are not repeated and that the project and its building’s design are environmentally sound and are consistent with the goals and objectives of Arlington County’s Natural Resources Management Plan (adopted 2014).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

With kind regards,
Suzanne Smith Sundburg
Arlington, Va.

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July 15, 2017

Arlington can only reduce its green house gas emissions if the Virginia State Board toughens Virginia building standards and codes

Development,environment — @ 2:00 pm

The Arlington County Board in 2013 adopted a Community Energy Plan (CEP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years, but the recommended policy measures were never put into effect. Nearly 80 percent of Arlington GHG comes from buildings, and therefore, the first CEP goal was to tighten building codes for new and remodeled buildings, This never occurred as these codes are set by a Virginia statewide board that has refused to tighten energy standards on new construction. The second goal of the Arlington plan was a district energy plan of co-generation power plants and that never into practice owing to opposition from private companies including Dominion Power.

Somewhat paradoxically, GHG in Arlington did decline by about 18 percent, according to the county, during 2007-15 because Dominion Power used more natural gas and less coal to produce electricity, and because of about one-fifth of Arlington office space becoming vacant, thus cutting energy use in commerce. However, residential use of energy in Arlington rose as larger and more energy inefficient homes and apartments were built, and as the population rose by 14 percent during 2000-15.

Arlington County cannot require builders to meet tighter building standards but rather depends on the Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development’s building code. The CEP indicated in 2013 that if this state board adopted a tougher International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in Virginia, then Arlington building efficiency would rise about 30 percent. The state board never tightened the code.

Now in 2017, the state board is considering the adoption of the 2015 IECC that would likely mean an energy savings of slightly considerably over 30 percent above the current weaker version of the 2012 code.

It is therefore imperative that Arlington obtain adoption of the full 2015 IECC that would mean that new buildings would likely be about 30 more efficient per square foot than currently.

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July 12, 2017

Arlington’s use of electricity continues to rise as Arlington Community Energy Plan goes unfulfilled

Development,environment — @ 3:38 pm

In early June 2017, the Arlington County Board pledged adherence to the Paris Accord on Climate Change (despite president Trump’s withdrawal), and indicated that the Arlington 2013 Community Energy Plan (CEP) goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years would make the Paris accord possible in the county. Unfortunately, the Arlington County Board adopted the CEP four years ago in 2013, but never implemented the main policy measures to meet the goals set in the plan, and energy use–mainly electricity continues to rise.

Energy use in Arlington, particularly of electricity, has continued to increase over the past 17 years, and there has been no paradigm shift to energy-savings building design particularly in the new and larger houses. Energy use in residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 79 percent of Arlington GHG in recent years (transportation for the remainder). Since 2000, total electricity use in Arlington rose by 14 percent led by a 45-percent rise in residential use, according to utility data provided by Arlington County. Commercial use of electricity peaked in 2007, and declined by 11 percent during 2007-15 as about 20-percent of office space became empty, and the recession took hold.

Higher residential use of electricity and natural gas can be traced to about 14-percent more Arlington residents, and tear downs of older detached houses and replacement by larger wasteful McMansions. Larger square footage in a home is directly related to energy use unless extraordinary energy-savings technology is introduced. The residential population in Arlington rose by about 14 percent to 216 million during 2000-15.

Total use of natural gas in Arlington did fall about 28 percent during 2000-15 as commercial buildings used much less, but natural gas use in residences rose by 4 percent during 2000-15. Warmer winter temperatures have curbed natural gas use for heating, and the nearly 20-percent office vacancy rate in 2015 reduced the need to heat offices. However, as vacant office space is rented in the future, energy use in commerce will rise.

The county government has failed to bring into effect the two main goals set in the 2013 Community Energy Plan–much tighter new building standards and co-generation of electricity. Without these measures, the county will never be able to reach the goal of a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions in the county.

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April 30, 2017

Greens march with hundreds of thousands others at March for Climate Change, Washington, April 29

environment,Events — @ 1:25 pm

Green Party members and supporters marched at the April 29 March for Climate Change along with hundreds of thousands of other people supporting continued U.S. Government support of EPA, environmental laws, and respect for our planet. Arlington Greens mixed with Greens from all points of Virginia, and from states of Michigan, New York, Maryland, Kentucky and the District of Columbia.

We are proud that Green Party values were on display with this great American Democracy exhibit that Americans support a clean environment and measures to end climate change.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/climate-march-expected-to-draw-massive-crowd-to-dc-in-sweltering-heat/2017/04/28/1bdf5e66-2c3a-11e7-b605-33413c691853_story.html?utm_term=.6d918703c023

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April 24, 2017

Arlington Greens at March for Science, April 22, 2017

A small group of Arlington Greens led by Sandra Hernandez, Kirit Mookerjee, and John Reeder marched with DC and Virginia Green members in the pouring cold rain with tens of thousands of other Americans in Washington, DC to support continued public funding of science for global warming, medicine and other fields that help our country and its citizens.

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April 21, 2017

Go organic and celebrate and help our Earth

Development,environment — @ 3:17 pm

Earth Day, April 22 celebrate by going organic in Arlington–buy organic and go organic on your Arlington lawn and garden

Even in urban Arlington, we can do something positive for the environment–eat and buy organic products and go organic on your lawn and garden and only use manure and organic-friendly products.

We know that organic farming practices offer countless benefits to our environment, now it’s time to spread the word! In honor of Earth Day, The Organic Center will be sharing 5 studies that show how going organic supports a healthy planet for all. From the birds and the bees to the soil and the trees, these studies demonstrate how the contributions of organic agriculture to a healthy environment are undeniable!

Follow The Organic Center tomorrow, April 22nd on Facebook and Twitter to learn about the science behind organic this #EarthDay. Or even better, share along with us!

website: https://www.organic-center.org/

Follow @OrganicCenter to learn why you should go #organic in honor of #EarthDay! #ScienceSaysSo http://bit.ly/2gtyUxv

New study on the environment cost of bread shows large impact of fertilizer use. 1 solution: go #organic #EarthDay http://bit.ly/2pLmCGr

DYK #organic farming increases the amount of carbon in soil? Another reason to go #organic for #EarthDay! @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLq0kI

Go #organic for #EarthDay! Why? B/c pesticides have long-term effects on bees! Organic = no neonics: http://bit.ly/2oRB5Cg @OrganicCenter

Birds are more abundant + diverse on #organic farms. Organic is good for the planet! #EarthDay @OrganicCenter http://bit.ly/2pLnB9V

DYK that #organic farming methods reduce water pollution? Check out the science behind this organic fact: http://bit.ly/1It6VWd

The Organic Center digs deeper
A perfect Earth Day share! We are digging in to the benefits of organic on Soil Health while introducing the work and mission of The Center. Help us spread the word! Check out the video below and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE with your networks!

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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:

Scan_Pic0064

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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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October 13, 2015

AGP Statement on development plans for Wilson School/Rosslyn Highlands Park

AGP Statement on development plans for Wilson School/Rosslyn Highlands Park

wilson school photo2

The Arlington Greens approved the following position on the development plans for the Wilson School and Rosslyn Highlands Park area at its October 1st meeting.

The Arlington Green Party condemns both the process and results of recent government decision-making concerning the public land around the Wilson School and Rosslyn Highlands Park

Process: Final decisions were made during secret negotiations* between government and developers long before the public process began. Because the outcome was predetermined, the public process disregarded longtime local community requests in framing a draft proposal**, and disregarded local community responses to the draft proposal. Secret agreements and ignored input; that’s not consistent with the way government should function in a democracy.

Outcome: The Wilson school area is the only substantial family recreation area within easy walking distance of the nearby neighborhoods***. No urban planner would recommend intense development of the site. And yet that is what will happen. The historic elementary school will be torn down and replaced by a much larger structure. Parking lots and small fields and one story buildings will be replaced with skyscrapers. Greenspace in the heart of a city will be paved over, parkland will be given over to development, and families will have reduced playspace – these are astonishingly bad outcomes.

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*Secret negotiations and disregard for local community input
See letter from Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park dated June 16, 2014.
http://arlington.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=784&meta_id=132793
also: Personal Communication with Katie Elmore and Stan Karson, local civic association designees to the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process.

**Long time Community desire to save green space and historic space
-Many presentations to the APS and County Boards by Mark Antell and Stan Karson, local civic association contacts for Wilson School for over a decade.
-Arlington County Civic Federation resolution recommending preservation of the Wilson School Playfields, endorsed 2007 and reaffirmed in 2014.
-Historic Architecture and Landmark Review Board recommendations in 2007 and 2014 that Wilson School be designated an historic site.

***Wilson School / Rosslyn Highlands Park the only substantial recreation area within easy walking distance of the surrounding neighborhoods. Look at the map.

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