Alexandria, VA

The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Free food distributions will be disrupted by the July 4 weekend in Alexandria, but food is still available.

Most notably there will not be any Alexandria City Public Schools distributions from Friday, July 3, until operations resume on Monday, July 6.

“Meal distribution locations and pop up sites will not operate on Friday, July 3, ahead of the Independence Day holiday,” advised ACPS.

Here are the available free food distribution points in the city this weekend, according to Hunger Free Alexandria.

  • A bag lunch and food pantry distribution is available on Friday at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church (322 N. Alfred Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals and food will be served in the courtyard to go.
  • Washington Street United Methodist Church (109 S. Washington Street) has a free breakfast Friday from 6-8 a.m.
  • Christ House (131 S. West Street) has evening meals available every night of the week from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
  • The ALIVE! food delivery program for COVID-19 patients, seniors, the disabled and single parents with young children is available for eligible residents by calling 703-746-5999
  • Rising Hope United Methodist Church (8220 Russell Road) will provide grab-and-go meals from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday while supplies last

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria might not be celebrating the city and the country’s birthday with fireworks this year, but there are sill a number of ways to have fun on the fourth of July.

“Even with physical distancing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a festive Fourth of July in Alexandria,” notes Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau. “Order special holiday meals like tri-colored tacos and ice cream delivery boxes from Alexandria’s restaurants. Celebrate with deals and happenings, from scavenger hunts to Fourth of July attire for pups, via independent boutiques and attractions.”

Here are some events around Alexandria on Saturday:

As previously reported, the city’s July 11 birthday celebration has been moved online to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

https://www.facebook.com/PorkBarrelBBQDelRay/photos/a.655496147823639/3263319887041239/?type=3&theater

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Del Ray First Thursday Porch Party Today — “The Del Ray Business Association presents First Thursday Porch Party: Red, White, and Blue from 6 p.m. to dusk on Thursday, July 2. In the spirit of Del Ray’s summer street festivals, the event features a wide range of activities that promote community while maintaining social distancing standards.” [Facebook]

Major Residential Development Breaks Ground — “About 300 residences and a large parking garage are replacing an old office building in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

DASH Bus Mobile Tracker Launches — “The new mobile-friendly DASH Tracker is finally here with new features and improved information to make finding your next bus a snap! Where will you go with the new DASH Tracker?” [Facebook]

Al’s Steak House Won’t Have Indoor Seating — “As we enter Phase 3 Al’s will continue not to have indoor seating available. Our space is too small to accommodate customers dining in and customers picking up their orders.The social distancing would be non existent. We do offer two tables for outdoor seating. Al’s will continue to accept call in orders and Delivery.” [Facebook]

Rebuilding Together Alexandria Slowly Getting Back on Track — “Our team was looking for a socially-distant project to get us out of the office and back into the community. We mulched the grounds of local nonprofit, Friends of Guest House. Check out the before and after!” [Facebook]

Mason & Greens Grand Opening Moved Online — “When news about the coronavirus began to spread, the Marinos knew they would have to cancel their big grand opening event.” [Alexandria Living]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Open House Saturday — “Explore the history in your own backyard with free, self-guided tours of the Lee-Fendall House on July 4th! Face masks are required and we will be limiting the number of visitors allowed in the museum at one time to allow for social distancing.” [Facebook]

New Job: Host or Hostess — “Looking for an energetic individual to control the flow of the dining rooms, and be the first happy face guests see when entering Village Brauhaus.” [Facebook]
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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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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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Electric scooter companies have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and the city says the transportation option “can be an alternate mode of travel while distancing.”

The city said it is also working with e-scooter companies on their disinfecting practices.

“Spin, Bird, and Razor devices are available to the community to access essentials (grocery stores, medicine, etc.), and Lime has paused its service in the City,” according to the city’s dockless mobility program page. “Shared mobility can be an alternative mode of travel while social distancing. To reduce risk to users and the community, the City is coordinating with each company on their disinfecting practices.”

The city also recommends that riders wash their hands before and after trips, or wear gloves, in addition to disinfecting the handlebars and other points of contact.

For months, Spin scooters were barely in Alexandria and their competition was even more scarce to be found. Permits in the city were issued to LimeBirdRazorSpin, and Helbiz. Lime reportedly laid off 13% of its employees around the world, Bird laid off a third of its workforce and Uber and Lyft have laid off hundreds of employees, according to the Washington Post.

Matt Harris, the president of the Colecroft Community Homeowners Association, which is made up of 135 homes near the Braddock Road Metro Station, has been against the scooters in the city since day one, but now thinks they can actually be useful.

“I actually see a place for scooters in our COVID environment, as people remain reluctant to take mass transit,” Harris told ALXnow. “Maybe it will be seem more widely as a true transportation option and less as a form of recreation.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Representatives of Alexandria’s law enforcement community, in a Monday night Zoom meeting, said they welcomed a closer look in order to eradicate systemic racism in their respective departments.

Police Chief Michael Brown and Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Shelbert Williams discussed the work that their departments have done over the years and in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. Mayor Justin Wilson also chimed into the conversation, which was moderated by city’s racial and social equity officer Jaqueline Tucker.

The meeting was requested by activist Tiffany Flowers, who tweeted to Mayor Justin Wilson about opening an online conversation regarding policing in the city.

“I felt like protesting wasn’t just enough,” Flowers said. “I felt like the best way to go about getting this reform that we’re seeking is to start reaching out to our city officials, and I just want to thank the city of Alexandria for being so helpful.”

Earlier this month, the city council unanimously passed a proposal by Councilman Mo Seifeldein to create a police review board.

“I think time will only be test of this, but what I sense is the courage in the community to deal with some of these issues,” Wilson said, adding that 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. I think these are long overdue changes and will help address in some ways some of the disparities that we see.”

A recent report from the Alexandria Gazette, for instance, found that Black males in Alexandria are arrested far more frequently than anyone else.

Brown said the department is looking at its data to find any elements of bias.

“Clearly, with the anger and the voices being heard across the country, including this city, we have to look at what we’re doing to make sure we’re doing it right and treating people with respect,” Brown said.

Williams, who is African American, said that it’s understandable that the community is angry.

“It’s tough to convince people that we’re doing what we need to do as law enforcement officers, to be fair, to understand that everyone’s human beings, and we should be treated with that same respect that we ask,” he said. “And with our officers, we’ve done that, in my opinion.”

Brown said that his department is currently 20.4% female, and the staff are 66% white, 18% African American, 5% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 2% other. He added that police are using tactics to deescalate situations, like a recent barricade situation in Potomac Yard, where a African American woman allegedly fired a handgun at officers from her home.

“Our folks used considerable restraint… in allowing the person eventually to get to the point where they fell asleep and were taken into protective custody without issue,” Brown said.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

The Del Ray Vintage and Flea Market is Happening — “We are BEYOND excited about having our July Del Ray Vintage & Flea Market AND we are hosting the MV Big Flea! The best of both worlds … come safely shop the flea market, see our new vendors and help support Mount Vernon Community School when you purchase from the MV Big Flea booth! Saturday, July 11th from 9am-1pm.” [Facebook]

New Driving Laws Take Effect July 1 — “On Wednesday, July 1, a new law takes effect in Virginia requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians. Further, the driver may not move until the person walking in their lane has passed safely.” [Zebra]

Marijuana Decriminalized July 1 — “ON JULY 1, VIRGINIA JOINS 26 states and Washington, D.C. in ceasing to jail people for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Gov. Ralph Northam signed SB 2 into law in May. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be punishable by a civil fine of up to $25 instead of a criminal charge that could mean up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. The bill prohibits employers from requiring applicants to disclose marijuana possession charges.” [Gazette]

Report: More Parents Considering Homeschooling for Their Kids — “The number of families considering homeschooling is skyrocketing according to Anne Miller, executive director of Home Educators Association of Virginia. Miller said their office has been flooded with calls from parents interested in homeschooling, and their Facebook group Homeschooling in Virginia has welcomed nearly 3,500 new members since the virus hit.” [Alexandria Living]

Sheriff’s Deputy Retires — “Our heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Master Deputy Saeed Shakoor! He is retiring after more than 26 years of dedicated service to ASO and the people of Alexandria. We’re sure going to miss you, Deputy Shakoor!” [Facebook]

Lorton Community Action Center Donates to ALIVE! — “This 788 pounds combined with other produce supports 220 food-insecure seniors in the City of Alexandria.” [Facebook]

Port City Brewing Co. Re-Releases Derecho Lager — “Derecho Lager® is named after a violent storm that barreled through the DC Metro region on June 29th, 2012, leaving the brewery without power for five days. Unable to control fermentation temperatures, a tank of freshly brewed pilsner was at risk of being lost. Realizing the beer would not meet the guidelines of a Bohemian Pilsner, we decided to experiment with the beer – keeping fermentation temperatures on the warmer side, and dry-hopping with Centennial hops. These non-traditional techniques paid off, and the result was the creation of our first American Lager!” [Facebook]

New Job: Wax Center Manager — “European Wax Center in Alexandria is currently seeking a sensational Center Manager with passion, determination and a commitment to excellence that will help take our center to new heights.” [Indeed]

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