February 11, 2014

Convert Empty Commercial Office Buildings in Crystal City and Rosslyn into Affordable Apartments

crystalcitypic1crystalcitypic3The rapid exit of many Defense Department agencies from both Crystal City and Rosslyn left an astounding 25 percent of the existing commercial office buildings empty in the fourth quarter 2013, according to the Arlington Economic Development Office. The overall Arlington commercial office vacancy rate is not much lower—20 percent in the fourth quarter 2013 (Economic Indicators, http://www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com/?LinkServID=8CBD27F2-1D09-08FB-3B16404C0DD82AE3&showMeta=0

The vacancy rates in Ballston and Virginia Square area are now 15 and 17 percent, respectively. The Northern Virginia average vacancy rate is now about 17 percent so there are plenty of other vacant buildings in other Metro adjacent areas competing for office building tenants, particularly along the Tysons Corner -Reston corridor. These buildings become more attractive with the opening of the Silver Line.

Arlington vacancy rates are going to rise higher as more Defense agencies and related military contractors leave Arlington for military bases like Fort Belvoir owing to BRAC. The General Services Administration (GSA), the real estate arm of the Federal Government, has so far terminated about 20 building leases in Crystal City the most impacted area in the Metro region through the end of 2013, and will end another 34 building leases by 2019, according to a Washington Post article (“D.J. OBrien, “CoStar: Despite jump in office vacancy rate, Crystal City shows resilience,” September 29, 2013.)

The end of 20 building leases led in part to a 25-percent vacancy rate in Rosslyn and Crystal City, the end of another 34 building leases is going to raise the vacancy rate much further.

There are a total 22 million square feet of commercial office space in Rosslyn and Crystal City (9 million and 13 million square feet, respectively), 5 million square feet vacant. A typical, 11 story- office building has about 225,000 square feet of usable space, and thus there are the equivalent of 22 empty office buildings in Rosslyn and Crystal City today.

A typical residential apartment building of 11 stories can accommodate around 200 apartments; this was the size of a recent residential apartment building in Crystal City built over the old post office site. Twenty-two commercial office buildings renovated into residential apartments could provide roughly 4,400 apartments; more if the units were smaller in size.

How much would a vacant office building cost to acquire? The county recently purchased a fully occuppied 7-story office building at the Courthouse for use as a county office building and homeless shelter for $27 million. An empty office building is worth considerably less since the dollar value of a building is largely a function of the office rents received or potentially received.

If an empty 11-store office building can be acquired for $20 million and potentially converted to 200 apartments of about 1,100 square feet each, the un-renovated cost of each apartment is about $100,000. Keeping renovation costs down to $100,000 per apartment, would mean an affordable apartment could cost $200,000. If the building contained 200 small efficiency 600 square foot apartments and 100 1,100 square foot apartments, were built instead of the larger 1,100 mix, the average costs would be $170,000–$70,000 per unit acquitision and $100,000 per unit renovation.
This cost is still below what the most recent affordable apartment complext cost ($250,000 per unit at Arlington Mills).

Together Rosslyn and Crystal City have 13,000 residential units (respectively 7,000 and 6,000). Another 4,000 apartments would increase their total residential units by about 30 percent, and bring in a good mix of mixed income residents. Neither area has an abundance of affordable units; Rosslyn in particular has lost many thousands of low rise affordable apartments owing to gentrification.
Both areas are “office building deserts,” lacking a good balance of residents and commerce. From an urban planning perspective, adding 4,000 affordable apartments would be good.

Arlington today needs about 14,000 more residential apartments to meet its shortage of affordable housing, according to the Va Tech Center for Housing Research. If 4,000 affordable apartments could be acquired at a modest cost from owners of empty office buildings, it would be a major boost to meeting the shortage.

Arlington County owing to the high cost of acquiring or building new apartments (even on public land) has been unable to add even 300 units annually. In 2013, the county added only 55 units. Meanwhile market forces eliminate about 900 units annually owing to demolition, (more…)

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November 22, 2013

Arlington County Board Campaign funding–Democrat Fisette raises $107,000, with real estate and private business interests the top donors

Uncategorized — @ 12:41 pm

Democratic incumbent Jay Fisette according to State Board of Elections data raised about $106,500 as of Oct. 23, 2013; his leading donors according to VPAC data were from the real estate/construction industry ($5,105), businessmen ($4,210), healthcare ($2,910), and defense industry ($2,200). About $14,000 of Fisette’s contributions came from residents who do not live in Arlington; what is their interest in Arlington?
Virginia Public Access Project reports are at:

http://www.vpap.org/committees/profile/home_financials/2840?start_year=2013&end_year=2013&lookup_type=year&filing_period=all

SBE reports at: http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/Committee/Index/9da1603d-869f-e111-8def-984be103f032

His largest single donor was Christine Milliken ($2,120) whose husband is a prominent lawyer representing many of the large developers operating in Arlington such as Vornado Realty Trust, JBG Companies, Clark Realty,
and Gould Property Company. Vornado and JBG own large commercial properties in Crystal City and other Arlington areas. The county board recently allowed higher development in Crystal City despite many neighbors opposition and to the financial benefit of these large developers.

Why did Jay Fisette take money from developers, real estate interests and other private business interests with past and possibly future matters before the Arlington County Board? The Northern Virginia Realtors PAC gave Fisette $1,000; does this weigh on his ability to impartially regulate developers in Arlington? Unfortunately Virginia’s weak ethical laws allow politicians to accept unlimited business funds.

Our Green candidate Audrey Clement raised less than $8,000 with nearly half of this coming from her own pocket, and her other leading contributor the chairman of the Arlington Greens Steve Davis.

Thus, the incumbent Democrat outraised the Green by about 14 to 1.

How can we have fair elections in the United States with corporate and business interests and those of wealthy people tilting the scales of competition?

The U.S. Green Party bars its candidates from accepting corporate and business contributions. Both the Democrats and Republicans are identical in their dependance and subseverience to the money interests. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Government of the People, for the People and by the People? Today we have government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

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October 8, 2013

WAMU story: Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

Uncategorized — @ 11:33 am

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

http://wamu.org/news/13/10/08/arlington_voters_to_decide_on_creating_new_housing_authority

By: Michael Lee Pope
October 8, 2013
Ashley Brown: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/
Proponents of a housing authority in Arlington say it’s necessary to maintain affordable housing in the county.
Should Arlington have the kind of housing authority that already exists in Alexandria and Fairfax County? John Reeder of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing says yes.
“A majority of people who live in Arlington are renters,” says Reeder. “We need to have a better housing assistance program in Arlington, and what we’ve done is an abject failure even though we are spending a lot of money.”
Opponents acknowledge that the county has lost thousands of market-rate units. But they say the county has worked with developers to set aside committed units of affordable housing that low-income residents can apply for. Former Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple says the public-private partnership model is working.
“Arlington has relied for years on a really, I think, genius idea of the county working with private, profit and nonprofit developers to address affordable housing in the community,” says Whipple.
Arlington Green Party Chairman Steve Davis isn’t so sure how genius that approach is. He says county officials won’t have access to federal money if Arlington doesn’t have an authority to receive it, including stimulus money that was available a few years ago.
“There could be money in the future, and there was money in the past because they weren’t eligible for it because they didn’t have a housing authority,” says Davis. “If you don’t have one you can’t get the money, and who knows what the future is going to bring.”
But Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, says federal money is no longer available to authorities. And she doesn’t expect new funding anytime soon.
“Should the government do an about face in five or 10 years, then lets have that discussion then.”
County voters have already rejected similar efforts four times, but leaders of the Green Party collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot again this year. Voters will have the final say when they head to the polls on Election Day.

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September 13, 2013

Arlington Green Don Rouse passes away

Uncategorized — @ 9:55 am

Don Rouse, our dear friend and comrade in all things Green and good passed away on September 10. Don has been an active Green in the Arlington local as well as the Nova Greens Local and the Green Party of Virginia for many years. He was also a reanaissance man in many ways, a superb jazz clarinet player; a tv producer and tv host for the Green Hour program on the Arlington Independent Media (AIM); and excellent writer, and a lover of nature and good walks.

Goodbye our dear friend.

Below is his obiturary published in the Washington Post:
John Donald Rouse, 76, of Arlington VA died Sept. 10, 2013 at his residence in Arlington VA. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Sandra Hertlein Rouse, sons Philip and John (Amy Morilla) of Brooklyn NY and grandchildren John Carlito and Colette Morilla Rouse. He is also survived by sisters-in-law Sarah Hertlein, Portland OR and Linda (Michael) Gentry, Lima OH. There will be a celebration of life held for family and friends on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 11 AM at Murphy Funeral Home, 4150 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA. Memorials may be made to Capital Caring Hospice, 2900 Telestar Court, Falls Church VA 22042.

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September 7, 2013

WAMU report on Arlington’s proposed housing authority

Uncategorized — @ 10:04 am

Arlington Voters To Consider Whether To Create Housing Authority By: Michael Lee Pope
September 5, 2013 2 Commentscommentshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/4540896591/Affordable housing is slowly disappearing in Arlington, and some believe that a housing authority is needed to preserve it.When voters head to the polls in November, they will be confronted with a hotly contested race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In addition to that, every seat in the House of Delegates will be up for election.

But voters in Arlington will see something extra, a ballot initiative asking the following question: Is there a need for the redevelopment and housing authority to be activated in Arlington County?

“The average rent in Arlington right now is only affordable to people earning $60,000 or more per year. If you are earning anything less than that, you can’t afford your rent,” says Audrey Clement of the Arlington Green Party.

She helped collect thousands of signatures to get the issue on the ballot. She says voters should approve the creation of a housing authority because Arlington has lost two-thirds of its affordable housing since the year 2000.

“So if you are concerned about maintaining an affordable apartment in this county, you will want a housing authority,” she says.

Supporters of the authority question the county’s affordable housing strategy of working with nonprofit groups and private developers to build units. They say Arlington would have more affordable housing units if the county operated them directly.

Opponents say an authority is not needed because the County Board encourages developers to set aside affordable units using money from Arlington’s affordable housing investment trust fund.

“I am not at all convinced that a housing authority would be either efficient or effective,” says county board member Libby Garvey. She says the county already has a strategy to protect affordable housing, and creating a new agency would only add layers of bureaucracy.

“I think it’s something that we’ve done years ago when there was a lot of federal money for affordable housing and there’s simply not that money right now,” she explains.

Voters in Arlington have rejected similar initiatives in 1958, 1982 and 2008.

http://wamu.org/news/13/09/05/arlington_voters_to_consider_whether_to_create_a_housing_authority

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May 2, 2013

Housing authority referendum — Greens make progress in getting voter signatures

Uncategorized — @ 8:17 am

Arlington Greens continue to gather voter signatures in order to reach the minimum 3,000 signature level required to get the referendum on the November 2013 ballot in Arlington.

If the voters approve the referendum, a public housing authority would be allowed to operate in Arlington and could begin to improve efforts to preserve and add more affordable rental housing.

If you would like to help, you can print out the petition form on 8 1/2 X 14 sized paper (back to back), then get Arlington voters to sign in your presence. The petition is posted on this website. You yourself must be a registered Virginia voter (but do not have to be an Arlington voter yourself). Only Arlington voters may sign. The form must be notarized after completed.

Please contact John Reeder (email info@greensofarlington.org) for more help.

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October 27, 2012

Voting Green in a Swing State–op editorial

Voting Green in a Swing State
By B. Sidney Smith (Page 1 of 4 pages)
OpEdNews Op Eds 10/26/2012 at 06:05:15

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Voting-Green-in-a-Swing-St-by-B-Sidney-Smith-121025-298.html

(Preface: This article isn’t really meant for everyone, so I might be able to save you some time. If you think climate change isn’t a serious electoral issue, this probably wasn’t written for you. If you think American presidents should conduct wars on their own authority and that it’s okay if they secretly assassinate whomever they (secretly) decide are bad people who might hurt us then you needn’t concern yourself with what follows. If you think the Bill of Rights of the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply when terrorism is involved, or that letting gays have civil rights should be decided on a state-by-state basis like slavery before the civil war, or that the health of the environment isn’t more important than economic growth, or that whistleblowers who expose governmental and corporate crimes should go to prison but that privileged lawbreakers shouldn’t, or that whether a candidate is electable should depend on how much she pleases wealthy donors–if any of these approximates your own take on the issues, please read no further. You’ll be bored. Honestly.)

I live in a purple part of the country (Virginia) and move in academic circles, so of course I know many, many people who will be voting for Obama. If that doesn’t strike you as funny, then you are the person I have written this for.

Of course it is impossible to know, but if I murdered Santa Claus in front of their children, the look on my Obama-voter friends’ faces could scarcely be much different than the look they get when I say I am voting for Jill Stein.

“But this is a swing state…you have to vote for Obama…what if Romney wins?!?”

The pain in their voices tugs at my sympathies; their fear is very real. I want to reassure them, but I was cured a few presidential elections ago. I won’t be drinking from that cup again.

At first they assume I don’t understand what’s at stake. They tell me about the Romney/Ryan agenda. They tell me about Obamacare. They tell me about DOMA and the Fair Pay Act. But the conversation wanes when I am not only unsurprised by the information but able to supply amplifications and corrections. I’ve read the (detailed summary of) the Affordable Care Act. I know about Romney’s probable agenda. I even know the age and bodily afflictions of key members of the Supreme Court. In short, I know what’s at stake.

This is awkward, and for some there is no plan B, but experienced partisans know where to take it next. There is something wrong with me. I’m a purist, a liberal elitist who won’t be satisfied, arrogantly “engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation.”1 I indulge in a “pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t.”2 I trade the common good for private conceit.

Fortunately my friends are mature people with trained minds, so for most it is enough to mention the ad hominem fallacy, to remind them that my personal faults–which I stipulate are legion–aren’t relevant to the validity or otherwise of my position in this debate. Usually we can agree to leave that brand of “discourse” to the professional bloviators.

So at last we come down to it. What are the arguments? There seem to be only two reasons for a progressive (you’re still reading, so I suppose that includes you) to vote for Obama. Either (1) you think Obama is not so bad, really, and has done a lot of good and could do more, or (2) Obama’s record makes you green about the gills, but the thought of Romney winning is intolerable.

Obama enthusiasts have by heart a widely-circulated3 list of his achievements: The Fair Pay Act, the auto bailout, legislation for credit card reform and hate crimes and student loans, some tax cuts, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, raising fuel efficiency standards, and ending the war in Iraq. Some also add killing bin Laden, the stimulus, and a new Start treaty with Russia. Everyone adds Obamacare.

Some of these really are achievements. The Fair Pay Act is a no-brainer, for one. Others are marginal. Credit card reform stopped some abuses but left millions imprisoned by usurious interest rates on their debt, with their homes and futures at the mercy of predatory lenders. If you are drowning it is definitely better to have fewer stones around your neck. You still drown though.

Editor’s Note–we generally only publish one page articles on Greens of Arlington; this is only page one of four pages; please go to website above for the remaining three pages.

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October 15, 2012

Washington Post article: Arlington board election focuses on streetcar debate

Uncategorized — @ 5:29 pm

Arlington County Board election focuses on streetcar debate
By Patricia Sullivan, Published: October 14, 2012

Libby Garvey, the Arlington County Board member who is trying to retain her seat in the Nov. 6 election against two challengers, has made up her mind on the Columbia Pike streetcar. She’s against it.

The controversy over whether to put a streetcar line down the curb lanes of the busy street has been one of the most contentious issues in Arlington over the past year. Garvey, 61, a Democrat who won a March special election for the seat, abstained from voting when the board endorsed the streetcar July 24.

That abstention has drawn significant fire from Republican candidate Matt Wavro and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, who have opposed building the 4.5-mile streetcar line for months. Garvey said she was studying the issue and waiting for more information, and last week she got it.

“I now believe a modern, bus rapid transit system is by far the best system for Arlington and the region,” she said during a Patch.com candidates’ forum at Arlington Independent Media on Thursday. “Just this week a real cost-benefit analysis came over the transom into our offices and I’ve read that and it absolutely confirms everything I’ve thought . . . not only because of the tremendous difference in expense. I think we can get a much better quality of service because of the connectivity a BRT system can provide.

“Fairfax County is looking at BRT, Alexandria is looking at BRT, Montgomery County is planning a BRT. It makes no sense to have Arlington in the middle with a streetcar and a BRT system all around us.”

The cost-benefit analysis was a 33-page document written by Peter Rousselot, an attorney and transportation consultant and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. The report concluded that a modern BRT system would cost one-fifth to one-half of a streetcar system, while achieving the same goals. A BRT system could be in place faster and would help the redevelopment of the Columbia Pike area, it said.

Whether the report or Garvey’s position will have any impact on the decision is unclear. The County Board voted 4 to 0 to support the streetcar, and the Federal Transit Administration is expected to decide by year’s end whether to endorse and fund about one-quarter of the project.

Wavro, 32, a human resources consultant making his first bid for elective office, prefers a system of articulated buses on the Pike. But his main concern is with the all-Democratic board, which he said does not listen to all points of view on a variety of issues.

He said housing services for people who make less than half the area’s median income should be continued, but that the county should stop directly funding housing. Negotiating with private developers to swap development rights for market-rate affordable housing is the better way to go, he said.

“The policies of this board have made it more expensive for businesses to rent, not less,” he said. He urged the elimination of the county’s commercial real estate property tax.

Like Wavro, Clement supports the hiring of an independent inspector general to scrutinize local spending. Clement, 63, a computer programmer who is making her third try for county office, said Arlington needs a public housing authority to combat higher rents and wants developers to pay more of the infrastructure costs their projects create. She’s also concerned with the county government’s “profligate capital spending,” pointing disapprovingly to the board’s support of an indoor aquatic center at Long Bridge Park, the money-losing Artisphere and the Columbia Pike streetcar line.

Eliminating those kinds of capital projects, Clement said, would allow libraries to be open seven days a week, solar panels to be erected on all county buildings and a green jobs project to be created. She also pledged to roll back real estate taxes.

Garvey, who describes herself as both an independent and a team player, warns that Arlington’s “comparative advantage is slipping” for businesses, which pay half the county’s tax revenue. The cost of housing, the coming expansion of Metro into Loudoun County and the increasing commercial rents also create challenges. The National Science Foundation’s lease expires next year and other knowledge-based organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Virginia Tech’s Research Center, as well as long-standing private organizations, are constantly tempted with lower-cost locations elsewhere.

Garvey also supported negotiations to buy an office building near the county courthouse for government offices and a year-round homeless shelter. Neither she nor the other candidates wanted the county to use eminent domain for the purchase, but Clement and Wavro said the county is willing to spend too much.

Garvey has the edge in campaign contributions, reporting $45,449 in cash donations through Aug. 31. Wavro followed with $4,345, and Clement raised $3,966. The county routinely elects Democratic office-seekers, and the national election this fall is expected to bring out large numbers of voters.

Garvey, a 15-year veteran of the School Board, allowed that this was not the toughest campaign she has weathered.

“I’m confident, but you never want to take any election for granted,” she said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/arlington-county-board-election-focuses-on-streetcar-debate/2012/10/14/c58caebc-147c-11e2-bf18-a8a596df4bee_story.html

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September 19, 2012

Virginia Greens Mourn the Passing of NOVA Greens Leader Paul Hughes

Uncategorized — @ 11:11 am

For immediate release:
September 18, 2012
The Green Party of Virginia joins environmentalist activists across the Commonwealth in mourning the passing of Northern Virginia Green Party chairperson Paul Hughes, who died this past weekend from a heart attack. “Paul was a “gentle warrior” who had a clear understanding of how the American promise of a democratic Republic was being thwarted by a small ruling elite,” said David Cobb, former 2004 Green Party Presidential candidate and current MoveToAmend.org organizer. ”He will be sorely missed.”
A long time resident of Fairfax County and retired government consultant, Hughes chaired the Northern Virginia local of the Green Party of Virginia. He also owned several environmentally friendly businesses that specialized in salvaging construction materials from demolition sites (Deconstruction Services) and selling them from his Springfield warehouse (Rebuild Warehouse). His business legacy includes the hiring and training of ex-prison convicts and former drug addicts and channeling them into productive careers.
As an activist, Hughes was well regarded as a Sierra Club volunteer and an early supporter of the work of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy POCLAD). He was one of the first organizers for the Move ToAmend.org coalition in Virginia. Throughout his life, Hughes worked tirelessly for Virginians and all Americans, and served as a mentor and inspiration to many.
The Green Party of Virginia wishes to extend its deepest sympathies to the Hughes family for the loss of this great Virginian.
Green Party of Virginia

http://vagreenparty.org/

Paul along with Arlington Greens Don Rouse and John Reeder just recently appeared in an hour long interview on Reston public tv program, Reston Impact, that was hosted by Reston activist John Lovass who along with Paul started an environmental group Sustainable Reston that worked to preserve Reston’s water, trees and natural environment. the direct link to the show is http://vimeo.com/49038385#
Paul mentored other Arlington Greens including Miriam Gennari in understanding how better technology, recycling, and energy conservation can improve our world and local community.

Rest in peace, our friend Paul.

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September 11, 2012

Arlington Greens Interviewed on Reston Impact TV Program: September 2012


Arlington Greens Don Rouse and John Reeder, along with Fairfax Green leader Paul Hughes appeared on the Reston public tv talk program, Reston Impact, on September 9, 2012. Reston Impact is the oldest public talk program in Northern Virginia and is on the Comcast tv channel in Reston, Va. John Lovelass the host of Reston Impact is a well known Reston progressive and activist and hosted this program for over 30 years. Lovelass also started the Reston farmers market, one of the largest and oldest farmers markets in the Washington, D.C. metropolian area.

The program has a broad hour long discussion about Green ideas–Jill Stein for president campaign, other Green candidates for office in Virginia.
Reston Impact -Here come the Greens – September 2012

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