Alexandria, VA

Alexandria Police Officer Jonathan Griffin has been charged with assault and battery for an unjustified use of force against a handcuffed resident in January, according to the city.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said that 32-year-old, who was dismissed from the department after the incident, was charged with one count of assault and battery. The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The incident occurred on January 27, and Griffin arrested the victim for a health evaluation, according to a city release. Griffin joined the department in 2012 and was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Unit.

“While escorting the individual in handcuffs, Officer Griffin used force to take the individual to the ground. The individual sustained multiple injuries on the front of his body as a result of the action,” the city said. “A subsequent investigation found that no force was necessary or justified.”

Griffin was placed on administrative leave on June 3 and was notified on June 26 that he was going to be fired and his case had been sent to Porter’s office, according to the city. His termination is expected to be finalized this month. Additionally, three supervisors who “failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city noted.

Griffin was booked at the Alexandria Jail and was released pending his arraignment at the Alexandria Courthouse on August 4.

This is no surprise to us that these occurrences are happening in our city. We continue to demand to Alexandria City…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

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Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and renters from Arlandria and the West End rallied in front of the city’s courthouse today (July 1) to ask Governor Ralph Northam to extend the moratorium on evictions, which expired on June 28.

Sami Bourma lives in the Southern Towers apartment complex in the West End, and has not paid rent since March. He has two children, his wife is four months pregnant, and he has been unable to work as an Uber driver. He’s also an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 23, which represents some residents in the buildings.

“There are hundreds of people who live at Southern Towers and a lot of them are like me,” Bourma told ALXnow. “I am getting $750 a month for unemployment. That pays for almost nothing and we need to survive.”

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304 and 22305 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Northam has requested that the moratorium be extended to July 20 — a move that Mayor Justin Wilson supports.

‪The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Friday, June 26, 2020

New Virginia Majority organizer Thomas Assefa said that his organization is also calling on Northam to approve $1 billion to fully fund an eviction protection program.

“Housing is a human right,” Assefa said. “We know that sheltering in place and staying in our home is one of the only ways we can combat this disease, and we are anticipating hundreds of thousands of tenants in the streets in the middle of a pandemic. There’s about 3 million renters in Virginia, and we anticipate 11% of that population could face massive evictions.That’s what’s at stake.”

Jonathan Krall, the co-founder of Grassroots Alexandria, said that it’s an issue of fairness and race.

“Racism results in economic inequality,” Krall said. “If you want to be anti-racist, then you need to cancel the rent.”

Frank Fannon, a former Republican city councilman, is a landlord and said that the governor should not extend the deadline and that there have been no waivers for commercial or residential property owners in their property tax bills, which the city mailed out last week.

“If you feel it is appropriate for tenants not to pay rent to your constituents, then be equitable and at least waive the late fees if property owners cannot pay their tax bill on time,” Fannon wrote to the City Council on July 1.

Wilson thanked Fannon for the email and responded that the property taxes are too important a revenue stream and that extending the deadline could endanger the city’s credit rating.

“It’s not something that we can play with unfortunately,” Wilson said. “That being said, our Finance folks are exercising maximum flexibility with tax payers right now. A taxpayer that contacts Finance will be extended payment terms, etc, upon request.”

Our community is the hardest hit by COVID-19 and the economic crisis, but Governor Northam doesn't seem to care about…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Staff photos by James Cullum

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It’s been a rough season for Alexandria businesses.

New data from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-based team of researchers, shows that Alexandria has fallen lower than its regional neighbors in the percentage change in consumer spending. The data shows that consumer spending across the region started to tank around March 16, when the public schools closed, and for most of the region hit rock-bottom on April 1 when the Stay At Home order went into effect.

While Alexandria, Fairfax County and Arlington have all mostly been trending upward since then, that recovery has been slow. Alexandria’s consumer spending is down 25% compared to what it was in January, with Arlington not far behind it at 24.9%

Mayor Justin Wilson, who shared the data on Facebook, said that it was likely that the focus on hospitality industries in Alexandria was the reason the city was faring worse than some of its neighbors.

For local businesses, that data has been tangible as a struggle to adapt and survive amid COVID-19.

“This is our second week of being open to the public in limited numbers,” said Amy Rutherford, owner of Penny Post (1201 King Street) and Red Barn Mercantile (1117 King Street) in Old Town. “It’s been slower. I wish there were lines out the door, but it’s not.”

Rutherford said sales have been a mix of in-store sales, pickups, and online orders. While Phase 3 of reopening went into effect today, Rutherford said she’s been wary about easing off some of the capacity restrictions in the store.

“My team is still a little nervous about what it means to reopen,” Rutherford said. “I don’t think we need to do anything quickly… I think people in Northern Virginia are smart and they want to get out, but they’re being thoughtful and doing what’s necessary.”

The stores closed in Mid-March, but Rutherford said the month still had a strong showing because the beginning had been going to swell.

“Then April was not as good,” Rutherford said. “May was not as good as April. June was not as good as May.”

Rutherford said there was strong initial support for online shopping, but with so much else going on, Rutherford said the pace required to keep shopping online to keep the stores profitable was not sustainable. The store gets substantial business from tourism, Rutherford said, which is all but gone.

“We’re watching the news and always monitoring the cases,” Rutherford said. “We look nationally at where we are and in Alexandria where we are, and we’re taking the pulse of our customers and our team. All of that goes into the considerations before we make any more changes, [we have] to make sure everyone is doing well.”

Even so, Rutherford said it’s been nice to see some of her old customers in-person again.

“In-store sales have been nice,” Rutherford said. “It’s good to see people again and talk face to face, even though we’re behind a mask… Hopefully, we’ll ramp back up. For the year, it’s not terrible because we had a strong first quarter, but still pretty up in the air for what we plan to do or what it’s going to look like.”

The main thing Rutherford said has been a big seller has been puzzles, which people have flocked to ever since they’ve been stuck at home. While she enjoys the in-person interactions, Rutherford still said she hopes more people shop online rather than risking exposure at stores.

“The best thing folks can do is stay safe and not take any additional risks,” Rutherford said. “Then shop at the website or call in to come in when they can. Be understanding. I think people in NoVA are very understanding of policies and have been very patient. People have been kind to us.”

Image via Opportunity Insights

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Wednesday & Thursdays, 6-7 p.m. Followed by an open cooking Q&A. Getting bored with frozen meals, take out and bland dinners? Want to create healthy and delish meals that inspire and save time? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Join me, Jennifer Jones of Cosmopolitan Plated, live from my tiny kitchen. You can access from any device, from anywhere.

Here’s What We’re Cooking This Week! Wednesday, July 1 | 6-7 p.m. ET (FREE) Summer BBQ Recipes — Part 1 Thursday, July 2 | 6-7 p.m. ET (FREE) Summer BBQ Recipes — Part 2 REGISTER HERE TO JOIN!

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This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Jillian Keck Hogan Real Estate Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Jillian at 703-951-7655 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: When is the best time to sell?

Answer: If you are considering selling for the first time, you may find yourself debating, when is the best time to do so?

In Northern Virginia the number of homes on the market at the end of May 2020 was down 31.3% compared to the end of May 2019. For roughly the last 5-7 years we have experienced a seller’s market, but now more than ever, we are in need of inventory for buyers in the D.C. Metro area. Demand for housing proves to be strong as we enter the second half of the year.

As long as interest rates remain historically low and consumer confidence is high, we should expect to see these trends continue. If you are considering selling, now is a great time to reach out to a professional real estate agent to discuss your options. We’d be thrilled to interview for the job!

Question: Should I make updates prior to selling?

Answer: If you are considering beginning a major renovation, stop. Renovations can be costly and time consuming. However, homes that are positioned well in terms of price and condition will tend to move faster with an accepted offer upon hitting the market.

First impressions are important. We always recommend hiring a professional photographer for marketing materials. If you own a condo in a high-rise building, preparing for the market may be as simple as neutralizing paint colors and decluttering your closets. While a single family home may want to spruce up its curb appeal with new shrubbery, mulch and freshly cleaned windows. It would be wise to consult with a professional, free of charge, before making any moves.

Question: What is my home value?

Answer: It is important as a seller to remember that memories and emotional feelings of attachment toward a property are not seen as valuable to a buyer. If you want to meet with a realtor to discuss your home’s value, begin collecting any and all documentation you have in advance of that meeting.

Examples of documentation are as follows: age of systems, maintenance records, service contracts and a list of upgrades. Providing these details upfront will help give a buyer peace of mind knowing the home had a great caretaker and add value in their eyes.

If a buyer is using financing to purchase your home, they will likely need an appraisal inspection as a condition of their loan approval. In order to gain an estimate of what a buyer may be willing to pay for your home and an estimate of the appraisal value, you will want to review the home sales that have closed most recently and are the most similar to your property.

Whether renting or buying, always consult with your local real estate agent for advice. We’d love to help you with the process! Contact one our team members today — Jillian Keck Hogan, Kristina Eells and Adrianna Vallario.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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Catholic University of America (CUA) is planning to open up a new branch in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood.

According to an application headed to the Planning Commission in September, CUA is hoping to renovate the second floor of 2050 Ballenger Avenue to create a new location specifically for students in Alexandria, Arlington, and other Northern Virginia locations.

The building is currently home to the Carlyle Club and Atlantic Union Bank on the ground floor.

“The premises will be renovated into a space including six classrooms that can each accommodate between 15 to 30 students, a computer laboratory and ancillary breakout rooms,” CUA said in its application. “The space will also include offices for a small number of staff and faculty to meet with students or prepare for class. The space will not include any laboratory, research or library facilities.”

According to the application, most programs would be offered on weekday evenings and occasional daytime events, such as small academic conferences.

“Courses would be taugtht by part-time, adjunct faculty members from the community, who would not have a full=time presence at the subject site outside of class meeting times,” CUA said.

The application is scheduled to be reviewed at the Sept. 1 Planning Commission meeting.

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The owners of an Old Town apartment complex want to demolish four 1970s-era rental properties and redevelop them into two multifamily apartment buildings with 474 new apartments.

The Board of Architectural Review will discuss the matter on July 15 before moving their recommendation to the City Council.

The building owners are asking for a permit to demolish the properties at 431 S. Columbus Street, 900 Wolfe Street and 450 S. Patrick Street, and for the approval of a concept plan.

According to the city’s real estate records, the property includes three garden style apartments and one mid-rise apartment building built between 1976 and 1977. They are not historic in nature and the applicant is proposing that the property maintain affordable units to help the city meet its affordable housing stock, in addition to having the property rezoned to residential multifamily.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]

Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]

Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]

Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) The city reported in an email that the missing man has been found safe and unharmed and has returned home.

A search for a 65-year-old man missing since June 29 has stretched into Alexandria. The city says that Muhammad Khan may have been in the area of Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road in the city’s West End on June 30.

Khan was reportedly last seen on June 29 at 10 p.m. in the 6000 block of Leewood Drive in Fairfax County, which is about two-and-a-half miles from Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road. He also likes to frequent restaurants, according to a city news release.

“He is considered endangered due to mental and/or physical health concerns,” according to the release. “Mr. Khan is 6’0″, 190 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair, last seen wearing a red checkered button-up shirt, orange pants and sandals.”

Anyone who sees Khan is asked to call or text 911.

Posted by Police Department, City of Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Image via City of Alexandria

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Along with a new phase of reopening, several new laws the City Council had pushed for in November will be taking effect starting tomorrow (Wednesday).

One of the biggest new changes will be that possession of under one ounce of marijuana will be a $25 civil fine without any jail time or a criminal conviction. Simple possession records will be sealed and employers and schools cannot ask about prior simple possession convictions.

Mayor Justin Wilson said new laws going into effect on July 1 will add more equity to arrests made.

“Those are changes that relate to marijuana, those are changes as it relates to shoplifting that really add more equity and will change the way that public safety addresses these crimes,” Wilson said in a Zoom meeting on racial equity on Monday night. “I think these are long overdue changes and will help address in some ways some of the disparities that we see.”

Other items requested by the City of Alexandria in its legislative package include:

The main Confederate statue in question was removed before the new law allowing its removal took effect.

The legislative package pushed for an increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The General Assembly instead approved a $12 minimum wage with the potential to increase to $15 by 2026.

Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein earlier described legislative proposals with a Democratic majority in the General Assembly as “playing with house money.” To that end, online sports betting was also legalized statewide.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria’s annual program providing fans or air conditioning for low-income seniors is coming back. This year, the city said the focus is ensuring seniors are comfortable staying home to avoid exposure to coronavirus.

“The City’s Division of Aging and Adult Services’ Senior Cool Care Program provides assistance for seniors ages 60 years or older who need cooling in their homes,” the city said in a press release, “especially while seniors are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to avoid potential severe illness from COVID-19.”

The seniors must be at least 60 years old, meet income eligibility requirements and must be residents of the City of Alexandria to apply for the program — though they could be a homeowner or a renter.

The program provides seniors with electric fans and, in some cases, room air conditioning units, according to Senior Services of Alexandria.

Seniors interested in applying for the program can email [email protected] or call 703 746 5999 for more information.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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