Category: Arlington

ACTION ALERT: Demand climate action from your local elected officials

ACTION ALERT: Demand climate action from your local elected officials

Transportation is the #1 source of our regional greenhouse gas emissions, and we have just 8 years to slash those emissions. Yet, our local and state elected officials who sit on the regional Transportation Planning Board (TPB), are not taking the urgent – and feasible – steps necessary to reduce emissions from our region’s transportation system. They need to hear from you! 

RELEASE: MetroNow Bus Transformation Project Progress Report

RELEASE: MetroNow Bus Transformation Project Progress Report

In response to the region’s critical transit needs, leading transportation coalition launches the Bus Champions Roundtable, a series of targeted discussions with regional leaders to align priorities and accelerate bus transformation progress.

CSG comments on Plan Langston (Lee) Highway study

Dear Ms. Alfonso-Ahmed,

The Coalition for Smarter Growth appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Land Use Scenario Analysis (LUSA) shared with the community over the spring as part of the Plan Lee Highway visioning process. 

CSG advocates for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. The Lee Highway (future Langston Boulevard) corridor provides a great opportunity to plan for a future that accommodates new growth and development in a way that is inclusive, sustainable, and meets the community’s current and future transportation, housing, and livability needs. 

CSG offers the following comments on the LUSA:

  • The additional heights and greater potential for consolidation as part of the LUSA’s Scenario B will help facilitate more affordable multifamily housing in the corridor and help to produce more housing overall. 
  • Providing bonus heights to reach the maximum heights shown in Scenario B could be achieved in exchange for committed affordable units within those buildings. Similar zoning incentives are utilized elsewhere in the County. The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Form Based Code allows for a bonus of either two or six stories for provision of affordable housing, and other RA zoning districts within the County are allowed up to 60 feet of additional height for projects with 100% committed affordable units. 
  • The edges of the commercial areas along the corridor are ideal places for Missing Middle Housing as a transition to the lower-density residential areas. As presented in the LUSA, however, it is unclear how the County plans to regulate development within the “two-family to low-scale multifamily residential” and areas of up to 4 stories in height. This lack of clarity has caused concern among some neighborhood residents. Since the Missing Middle Study is expected to include an analysis of this type of housing, it would be helpful for the county to conduct additional community outreach and discussions regarding the specifics of these transition areas once that study is further along. 

To assuage concerns, the Preliminary Concept Plan should make clear that transition zones will be established to step down heights to nearby neighborhoods and include goals that these transition zones are expected to achieve and the potential forms that the development could take. It should further make clear that any action to move toward a possible redevelopment in these areas would be voluntary and that no forced acquisition or eminent domain will be a part of that process.

  • The East Falls Church (EFC) area plan should be updated with the higher allowable heights and transition zones consistent with the rest of the corridor. The current EFC area plan does not allow for an adequate amount of development for a key Metro station that will also serve the future Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit. These updates should include not only the direct Metro station area but also the surrounding commercial and residential blocks to create a walkable, transit-oriented neighborhood befitting a major metro station area. 
  • The Cherrydale plan should also be updated to be consistent with the allowable heights and transition zones in the rest of the corridor. This means that additional height beyond what is in the original Cherrydale plan should be proposed.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We appreciate the opportunity to help develop a plan that helps guide the new Langston Boulevard corridor into a vibrant, inclusive, and transit-oriented corridor.

Thank you,
Sonya Breehey  

CSG Comments on the Route 1 Multimodal Study

Dear Mr. Reinhard and team, 

The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT’s) preferred alternative to convert Route 1 through National Landing from an elevated highway to a slower, safer, and vibrant urban boulevard. This is a forward-thinking proposal that will eliminate the current barrier that the elevated Route 1 presents and provide greater cohesion between Pentagon City and Crystal City. 

It is essential that this new urban boulevard be designed in a way that truly prioritizes the needs of people walking, biking, and using transit. We recognize there are concerns regarding the safety of people without grade separation. However, we believe with the right design and safety measures, this new boulevard can be safe, accessible and provide a more connected community overall. 

Physically designing the roadway for slower speeds by narrowing travel lanes and reducing corner radii, providing physically protected intersections and bike lanes, and allowing off-peak on-street parking are proven designs that make streets safer. Added safety measures should also include utilizing pedestrian lead intervals at signals and automated speed enforcement.  

Conversion to a boulevard presumes we do everything we can to promote non-automobile access to National Landing, Reagan National Airport, and other commuting destinations. This includes expanding employee transit benefits, utilizing parking pricing, and providing more frequent and reliable transit services. Providing attractive transit options will help intercept commuters from Prince George’s, Fairfax County, and other points south traveling to jobs in Arlington and the District.

We urge VDOT and Arlington County to reimagine Route 1 with an at-grade design that emphasizes safety and accessibility for all road users and provides a vibrant urban boulevard through the heart of National Landing. 

Thank you for your time and consideration of our comments.  

Sonya Breehey
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager

Event: Envision the Future of Lee Highway

Arlington County wants to hear from you as the community lays out a vision for the Lee Highway corridor! The Plan Lee Highway team is hosting a community meeting this Thursday, May 27th to present and get feedback on corridor-wide and neighborhood area plans for the Arlington East Falls Church, North Highlands and Lyon Village neighborhoods.

You are also invited to join the Plan Lee Highway team for a walking tour on June 12th to discuss visions for the future. Walking tours are a great opportunity to think about how we can transform commercial corridors into more walkable, sustainable neighborhoods.

Plan Lee Highway Community Meeting
Arlington East Falls Church – North Highlands – Lyon Village
May 27, 2021 at 7 pm
Join the Meeting

Walking Tour
June 12, 2021 at 10 am
Join the Walking Tour

Community members’ input helped to shape the preliminary land use scenarios for five neighborhood areas. The scenarios offer different land use mixes to provide diverse housing options, enhanced open space and stormwater management, safer streets and better transit. Feedback will be used to help develop a preferred Concept Plan.

Thursday’s community meeting will focus on Neighborhood Areas 1 and 5 including Arlington East Falls Church, North Highlands, and Lyon Village neighborhoods. Two other community meetings were already held for Neighborhood Area 2 (John M. Langston, Yorktown, Tara Leeway Heights, Leeway Overlee), Area 3 (Waverly Hills, Donaldson Run, Old Dominion, Glebewood, Waycroft Woodlawn), and Area 4 (Cherrydale and Maywood). The recordings and presentations for all the meetings are posted on the project website here

You can provide feedback for all neighborhood area and corridor-wide concepts via an online survey through June 20th. 

For more information about the Plan Lee Highway process, visit the project website

Take Action: Show your support for missing middle housing

Dear Sonya,

There are just two days left to provide your input on Arlington’s Missing Middle Study. You will find the presentation thought-provoking about the housing challenges facing Arlington, and by responding to the questions you will help us all think about the impact of high housing costs and options for addressing Arlington’s housing needs.

View the presentation and provide feedback  

What is missing middle housing? “Missing middle” refers to the range of housing types that fit between single-family detached homes and mid-to-high-rise apartment buildings. Having different types and sizes of homes helps provide more options at different price points. Examples of missing middle housing include duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes. These images are some examples shared in Arlington’s Missing Middle presentation.

The opportunity to provide feedback ends December 31. Visit Arlington’s Missing Middle Study website for more information and to provide your input today!

CSG Testimony re Amazon & Affordable Housing

Coalition for Smarter Growth

March 14, 2019

Arlington County Board

Suite #300

2100 Clarendon Blvd

Arlington, VA 22201

 

Re:  Amazon incentive package and community needs

Dear Chair Dorsey and members of the Board:

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading non-profit in the DC region advocating a network of livable communities – walkable, mixed-income, mixed-use, transit-oriented centers and corridors linked by an expanded transit network including Metrorail, bus, bus rapid transit, light-rail, and street-car as appropriate. Our partnerships span the region’s leading conservation, affordable housing, bicycle/pedestrian, and transit advocacy organizations, as well as progressive architecture, planning and development firms. We are proud that this web of partnerships enabled us to collectively win the first-ever dedicated funding for Metro.

We support Amazon’s decision to locate in Crystal City/Pentagon City. Their decision is a vindication of Arlington’s long-time leadership and implementation of smart growth and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is a vindication as well of our regional advocacy for TOD and of the Council of Governments’ Region Forwardvision and Visualize2045transportation plan commitments to TOD. Amazon is also teaming with one of the region’s most successful transit-oriented developers, JBGSmith, who have a record of good design and placemaking, and recently started a workforce housing fund.

Turning now to the proposed incentives program. We join others in the long-standing concerns about the nationwide use of incentives to attract major corporate entities – particularly given so many socio-economic needs in our communities. But we also recognize that both Arlington and the State of Virginia incentives are performance based. Arlington’s incentives are also being drawn from the growth in revenue from the Transient Occupancy Tax, of which 15% will go to Amazon for performance but the remainder to schools, housing and transportation in Arlington. We are pleased that the state transportation investments are among the most progressive seen in the U.S. in that they are focused on transit, bicycle/pedestrian and safe street design investments.

A new area of concern raised by Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government must be addressed – that the proposed agreement includes a provision allowing Amazon “at least two-business days to refute, redact or file a lawsuit when someone seeks records of its interaction with the county” (P. Sullivan, Washington Post, 3/15/19). At CSG we have always placed transparency in government at the core of community planning and engagement and strongly support ever greater transparency in FOIA standards and fewer exemptions. Therefore, this provision which Ms. Rhyne says is unusual, should be removed from the agreement.

While we are supporting the Amazon transit-oriented project, we share the significant concerns about housing affordability in Arlington and the region – an issue which admittedly predates Amazon. While Arlington and Alexandria are pledging $150 million toward affordable housing needs over ten years, our understanding is that these are not new, additional funds. It is good that the Virginia Housing Development Authority will be allocating $15 million per year over five years in low interest loans for affordable housing and added $3 million to the statewide Virginia Housing Trust Fund. But this level of investment is also far short of the need. Since Arlington notes that increased revenues will result from Amazon’s investment and associated development and economic activity, we urge the use of a significant portion of those revenues for affordable housing – to double or more the current annual commitments. We urge the same for Alexandria, Fairfax, and the state.

As for the state commitment to affordable housing, we need to point out the discrepancy between $750 million in incentives for Amazon and $50 million for Micron, while only adding $3 million to the state housing trust fund and the five-year, $15 million per year loan program for Northern Virginia. Similarly, the comparison between the billions we spend on highways and interchanges is stunning when compared to how little we are investing in affordable housing. In fact, housing close to jobs and transit IS a transportation solution, reducing vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled. Investing in affordable housing in smart growth locations creates far more benefits than do our massive highway expenditures, providing family stability, improved health, improved educational outcomes, improved access to jobs and affordable transportation, and reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we need both much more public funding support from the state and local governments, but also innovative private sector investment in long-term committed affordable housing for 60 percent of area median income and below.

Beyond funding, we concur with many other groups that we need effective preservation strategies for market-rate affordable housing in our diverse neighborhoods that are potentially impacted by the economic development that will come with Amazon. Arlington, DC, Alexandria and advocates at CSG and the member groups of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance have many ideas for effective tools for both preservation and inclusion of affordable housing, and we need a stronger commitment and an accelerated approach to implementation in each jurisdiction with the full participation of local residents.

Turning back to transportation, and Amazon’s role, we are pleased that Amazon has achieved about a 50% mode share for non-auto commutes in Seattle and has promised that they want to do even better here. We recommend a goal of 65% non-auto mode share. To achieve this, we recommend that Amazon provide transit passes to all employees, and that they minimize on-site parking (as they have discussed) — and price it OR offer equal non-parking benefits to any employee who might be eligible for or offered a parking space but wishes to take transit, walk or bike to work. Include secure bicycle parking, along with showers and lockers for bike commuters.

In addition, the state, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, and local jurisdictions should add other projects to the package of transportation investments including:

  • Connecting Metroway through Alexandria to Fairfax’ Embark Richmond Highway BRT
  • Accelerating the Long Bridge rail project and building the separated bike bridge
  • In the I-395 Corridor provide TOD node-to-node bus rapid transit connections between Fort Belvoir, Springfield, Landmark, Mark Center, Shirlington, Pentagon City/Crystal City and Pentagon (and a Kingstown to Van Dorn to Landmark connection).
  • Expansion of Capital Bikeshare
  • Expansion of dedicated bike lane infrastructure

In conclusion, we support Amazon’s location decision, but we urge you to fix the FOIA issue, to advance these additional transportation projects in partnership with other jurisdictions, AND commit to increasing funding for affordable housing, adopting new tools for preservation and inclusion, and including the community in the development of these strategies and programs.

Thank you.

Stewart Schwartz

Executive Director

Arlington’s streetcar is dead. Now what?

As streetcar projects around the U.S. continue to be a magnet for either giddy anticipation or derision — and often both — officials last month voted to kill one such transit plan just outside of Washington, D.C. After an election last month where a county board member who had campaigned on an anti-streetcar platform won a seat by a large margin, the Arlington County Board voted to cancel its long-planned, 7.4-mile streetcar system.

John Vihstadt (I) won his seat in a low-turnout special election last year but on Nov. 4th, won re-election by a wide margin, again campaigning on an anti-streetcar platform. The election, board members said, was a proxy for voter sentiment against the streetcar, which was approved eight years ago and has been in the planning stages since.

“It was disappointing,” board chairman Jay Fisette says. In a statement he made last month, he elaborated: “We … were caught flat-footed when organized opposition to the streetcar surfaced in just the last year or so.”

Just outside of Washington, D.C., Arlington County has an exceptional smart-growth record, with an “incredible” track record of “planning and integrating land use, transportation and … housing,” Fisette says. Forty percent of transit trips in the Commonwealth of Virginia begin or end in Arlington, and while the county’s population has increased by 40 percent over the past three decades, traffic on many major arterials has remained at 1979 levels or even dropped.

So the decision to terminate the streetcar wasn’t just surprising, it was somewhat unprecedented in Arlington. Yet, the motion adopted by the board Nov. 18th authorizes the county manager to “terminate all … agreements the purpose of which are to implement the streetcar projects.” It also instructs the manager to research how the discontinuance of the streetcar will affect the county’s plans for transportation, development and affordable housing and to come up with an alternative solution.

Some advocates — including Fisette himself — are a little skeptical. “I continue to be … supportive of the streetcar as the preferred, the optimal way forward, for transit, for moving people, for creating place and for generating future revenue for the county,” he says.

Others are a bit more blunt. “Really, there’s no plan B,” says Stewart Schwartz, director of the D.C.-based Coalition for Smarter Growth, which supported the streetcar plan.

Streetcar opponents like Vihstadt argued that bus rapid transit would have been just as efficient but cost much less than the streetcar, whose price tag had reached $550 million. But on much of the streetcar’s proposed route on Columbia Pike, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it wouldn’t allow a dedicated lane for BRT (it wouldn’t have allowed a dedicated streetcar lane either). That makes true BRT impossible, “so what you’re really comparing it to is the most enhanced bus possible,” says Fisette, “with different features of the streetcar like off-board fare collection” or articulated buses with larger capacity. All those options are on the table for county staff to examine, but come with additional complications, Fisette notes.

Bendy buses would be the first in Northern Virginia, so the county would have to find a place to store and maintain them, which adds additional cost. Streetcar advocates have also noted the extra wear and tear on the road of hundreds of bus trips per day, and the costs of having to re-do some of the county’s planning work.

Affordable Housing Plan in Limbo

The streetcar was part of a plan for growing and preserving affordable housing in one of the remaining affordable areas of the increasingly wealthy Arlington.

“They [the county] worried that they were losing affordable housing through attrition,” Schwartz says. “Garden apartments were being upgraded with granite countertops and then rented back out at higher rents, resulting in gradual displacement over time.” To combat this, the county planned to incentivize development along Columbia Pike and offer density bonuses for developers willing to include affordable housing.

This area is now expected to attract two-thirds of the county’s population growth and half of its employment growth over the next 30 years, and some of that — no doubt spurred in part by the streetcar planning process — is already underway. Without the streetcar, that growth will either wither away, or grow as planned, but cause more traffic jams than the county wants.

What’s sad, Schwartz said, is how the debate turned. “This is a county … known for their consultation with the community over many years, and they’d done their homework,” he says. But there was a “concerted campaign” on the anti-streetcar side. “An election is the worst place to debate a complicated land use and transportation problem … so enough doubt was cast and the project went down.”

View the original article on Next City.