Alexandria’s continued and weekly unemployment claims are continuing to go down, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.
There were 1,513 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 21, a slight decrease from the 1,628 continued claims filed for the week for the week ending Nov. 14. There were also 1,933 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 7; 1,942 continued claims for the week ending Oct. 31; 2,340 claims for the week ending Oct. 24; 2,353 claims for the week ending Oct. 17; and 2,891 claims for the week ending Oct. 10.
There were 112 initial (first-time) claims for the week ending Nov. 21, down from the previous week, which saw 173 initial claims. There were also 102 initial claims for the week ending Nov. 7; 164 initial claims for the week ending Oct. 31; 123 claims for the week ending Oct. 24; 163 claims for the week ending Oct. 17; and 125 claims for the week ending Oct. 10.
The week ending Nov. 21 was the 36th week since the pandemic began in Virginia, and unemployment has gone down significantly since the spring and summer. In April, for instance, there were nearly 7,000 initial unemployment claims in Alexandria.
Throughout Virginia there were 81,138 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 14, which is a 4.7% decrease from the previous week. There were also 12,234 initial claims, which is an increase of 1,146 claimants from the previous week.
According to VEC:
Nationwide, in the week ending November 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 778,000, an increase of 30,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 6,000 from 742,000 to 748,000. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 827,710 in the week ending November 21, an increase of 78,372 (or 10.5 percent) from the previous week. There were 252,428 initial claims in the comparable week in 2019. Looking at preliminary data, most states reported increases on a seasonally unadjusted basis. Illinois’s preliminary weekly change (+18,255) was the largest increase among states. Michigan’s preliminary weekly change (+15,843) was the second largest increase. Others included Washington (+13,179), California (+9,157), New Mexico (+8,037), and Minnesota (+7,898). Virginia’s preliminary weekly change (+4,752) was the 11th largest increase.
While further south Alexandria is finalizing plans for the northern end of the Old Town Waterfront, the overall north point of the Alexandria waterfront is about to get some love too.
At a Planning Commission meeting yesterday approved plans for several new pieces of Potomac Yard, including a sweeping new plan for a 4.6 acre extension at Potomac Yard Park that will run from just south of the planned Potomac Yard Metro station to Four Mile Run.
Sara Brandt-Vorel, a planner for the City of Alexandria, said the new park will be a large, contiguous open space with features like a children’s natural play area, an area for public art funded by developers, and a fitness station. The park also features several areas set aside as flexible lawns.
The planned park was mostly met with enthusiasm by Planning Commissioners.
“[This] is fundamentally one of the most powerful elements for the vision of Potomac Yard,” said Commissioner Stephen Koenig. “The southern portion, which has been part of the city for several years and has been a wonderful contribution to the development of the neighborhood, when it’s complete the park will stretch from Four Mile Run to where it connects at Braddock Road. I think this has been a fundamentally powerful conception aspect of Potomac Yard. It’s exciting to reach us with this culminating piece.”
Images via City of Alexandria
Alexandria is moving forward with plans to implement new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) policies aimed at making it easier to build units both attached to existing houses and separately on residential lots.
ADUs are generally small units sold or rented out to residents other than those in the main house. ADUs increase the availability of housing stock and have been eyed as a potential solution to the decline in market-rate affordable housing. These hopes for ADUs are also frequently paired with concerns that they could add density to Alexandria’s existing neighborhoods.
Staff said in a presentation to the Planning Commission yesterday that the proposal is any single-family, two-family or townhouse dwelling can apply to have an ADU. Staff has also done community outreach to gather public feedback and said that 56% of those surveyed supported ADU policies, while 26% did not and 8% were still undecided.
Early on in the process, Alexandria prioritized making the ADU process not too onerous on property owners, an issue that has plagued Arlington and led to a widespread lack of ADU implementation. Staff said there would be a no-fee permit required for ADUs in Alexandria.
“Having permit process would increase predictability for applicants seeking ADUs,” staff said.
Only one ADU would be allowed per lot and — at least in current plans — the permit would require the owner to live on the property. Staff said this requirement helps ensure the use remains compatible with the neighborhoods.
Staff told the City Council that the policy has undergone some refinement.
“We want to be really intentional about these units remaining accessory,” staff said. “It should not be occupied by more than three persons. We still need to do more research for owner occupancy requirement.”
The ADUs could also be used as short-term rentals, though concurrent rental of the main house and the ADU would not be permitted. No additional off-street parking will be required for ADUs, a decision staff said was intended to cut down on excessive driveway space.
Image via Arlington County
ACPS Eyes Late January as Earliest Date for In-Person Classes — “Frustrated parents are continuing to push Alexandria City Public Schools officials to reopen schools for in-person instruction, but the earliest possible date for some students will be in the second half of January” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Free Coffee for Frontline Workers at Alexandria Starbucks — “Front-line workers can get free coffee throughout December from Starbucks locations throughout the United States, including these three in Alexandria.” [Patch]
Where to Donate in Alexandria for Giving Tuesday — “There are plenty of nonprofits and causes to support in Alexandria, from national organizations based in the city, to organizations helping Alexandrians.” [Patch]
Caregiver for Seniors Sought — “At Sunrise, our Care Manager is responsible for providing the highest degree of quality care and services to a consistent group of residents and their families in our assisted living and reminiscence neighborhoods.” [Sunrise Senior Living]
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Alexandria Police are investigating a scam where owners posting cars for sale on the OfferUp marketplace are having them stolen after being handed fraudulent checks.
The cars have since been found for sale by the suspects on OfferUp.
“The description of the suspect in both incidents is similar and the vehicles involved are identical,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.
On Nov. 4, a man reported to police that his 2018 Chevrolet Camaro was stolen. The man posted the car for sale for $23,000 on OfferUp and was contacted by the suspect, who was accompanied by a man in a white Audi A6 or A8 with DC tags, according to the affidavit.
The suspect handed over a check for $22,500 and drove away with the car. The man then took the check to the bank and they told him it was a fake. The man contacted police after finding his car being sold by the suspect on OfferUp, according to the affidavit.
On Nov. 5, a woman and her grandson reported to police that her 2014 BMW 535 was stolen. The woman allowed her grandson to post the car for sale for $14,700 on OfferUp, according to another affidavit.
The grandson met the suspect in the 4900 block of Seminary Road on Nov. 4. The suspect gave the man a check for $14,700 made out to his grandmother and then “quickly” drove away in the car, according to police.
The victim got suspicious and decided to follow the car.
“(The victim) was unable to do so because… other vehicles that appeared to be accompanying the suspect blocked his path and then proceeded to disregard a red light and hastily drove out of the area,” according to the affidavit. “The suspect was driving a white Chevrolet Camaro, and the other vehicles were an Audi A6 and a BMW 33 series with red rims.”
The grandmother was told it was a fake check when she took it to her bank. Police later found the car being sold by an account on OfferUp for approximately the same price she was asking before it was stolen.
Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine advises anyone selling their car to accept cashier’s checks and money orders, not personal checks.
“Be smart, be safe,” Ballantine said. “Only accept cashier’s checks and money orders, because that’s just cash.”
Bicycle use has increased regionally, to the point where it was difficult at times to get a bicycle in Alexandria. With hopes for a rebound in ridership in the coming spring, Alexandria said seven previously deployed stations still in good condition will be purchased and located in the West End. The purchase will accelerate the expansion of the program by several years, the city said.
“The interim stations, which are anticipated to be installed in January and February, will be replaced with new equipment once grant funding becomes available,” the city said in a press release. “City staff is finalizing locations for stations and coordinating an installation schedule.”
The city said locations will primarily be chosen based on sites identified in the Transportation Master Plan. Sites are scattered throughout the West End, partially concentrated in the high-density areas like near the Van Dorn Street Metro station. It’s unclear how potential plans to close the Van Dorn and Eisenhower stations could affect that implementation.
The press release noted that sites will be determined after discussions with nearby property owners and the Bikeshare operator.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Police say there was another “shots fired” call in the city’s West End last night; the latest in a series of shootings in Alexandria this year.
The shots came from the 200 block of Century Drive, near Landmark Mall. Police say they found no victims or damage at the scene, but found spent shell casings.
My goodness. I was driving south on Van Dorn and heard 9 pops. Was wondering if they were a gun discharging.
Thanks for posting this and taking care of our community
— NatsFan416⚾ (@DrooooClip) December 1, 2020
There have been injuries in other shootings around town, though it’s unclear how many, if any, of the shootings are related.
So far, there have been 46 confirmed cases of shots fired in Alexandria, an increase over last year’s 37 cases.
Image via Google Maps
WMATA Considers Closing Two Alexandria Metro Stations — “The 19 stations that could face closure include those that are within one mile of other stations and those that are seeing the lowest usage. In Alexandria, that means the Eisenhower Station and Van Dorn Street station are on the list.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]
Local Program Supports Artists With Disabilities — “Coletta Collections, an artisan program for people with disabilities, is helping Alexandrians celebrate the holidays safely and sincerely.” [Zebra]
City Looking for Firefighters — “If you’re interested in working for the vibrant City of Alexandria, we invite qualified candidates to apply for our Firefighter I position.” [City of Alexandria]
Watchdog Group FOIA Shows Internal Disagreement in City Over Seminary Road — “[Yon Lambert] said roads for ‘all users’ were more important than roads that met fire department response needs. More to come.” [Twitter]
If you want to build bonus density, office-to-housing conversions, or continuum of care facilities in Alexandria, a new report says you should have to pony up a little extra cash to support affordable housing.
Trading density and other exceptions to zoning code for a contribution to the affordable housing fund has been a longstanding practice in Alexandria and other localities, but the new “Update to the City’s Affordable Housing Contribution Policies and Procedures” being presented at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting includes a recommendation push for that system to be codified.
“Over the past decade the voluntary monetary contributions based on development potential has become a standardized formula within the City and it is a practice by which most developers abide,” a memo attached to the report said. “However, contributions pertaining to bonus density (particularly when a rezoning is involved), office to housing conversations, and continuum of care facilities were vague and open to negotiation.”
The memo continued, “This uncertainty makes it difficult for the development community to build these contributions into their land costs and provides for various outcomes among different projects. While not everyone agrees on the level of contributions for each project type, the recommendations as drafted by staff provide clarity on the anticipated contributions for various project times and will result in additional affordable housing monetary contributions or units, particularly when additional density is provided.”
The staff report notes that the last time the plan was updated — in 2011 — the contribution required for bonus density was left to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The report noted that this did little to provide clarity for developers, so a new system was devised in the current update that broke additional density into sections requiring different levels of contribution. The amount of contribution scales directly with the amount of bonus density sought.
The report also outlines requirements for contributions in converted housing developments or in senior care facilities, neither of which had been previously codified.
But even if the recommendations are approved by the Planning Commission and City Council, the update notes that the Dillon Rule requires that the changes be taken to the state.
“Staff recommends that Planning Commission review and City Council approve the implementation tasks and next steps identified in this report,” the report said, “including a recommendation that the City seek legislative authority through the Virginia General Assembly to make affordable housing monetary contributions mandatory.”
Staff photo by Airey
Alexandria Lighting & Supply, a feature of the Braddock neighborhood for the last 50 years, could be making the move to the West End of Alexandria if approved at a Planning Commission meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) and a City Council meeting after that.
After moving away from its current location at 701 N. Henry St, the store is planning to open in a new building called Avanti 550 at 550 South Pickett Street.
Applicant Avanti Holdings described the lot as a triangular-shaped vacant lot measuring 32,987 square feet. The store would be next to the Cameron Park industrial complex and near the Van Dorn Station shopping center.
The new building would be triangular shaped to fit the lot and would contain both a retail showroom and storage for lighting equipment.
“A portion of the building would be used as a retail showroom and the remaining portion would consist of warehouse/storage primarily for the lighting business,” a staff report said. “The proposed new building would be modern in design and urban in form and include underground parking. The underground parking would be accessed from a new private street along the southern property line.”
The staff report on the proposed new development recommended approval.
The current location in Braddock is eventually slated to be replaced with a new 94-unit residential development with potential to add retail on the ground floor a little further down the road.
Images via City of Alexandria
Police Investigate More Shots Fired — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a “shots fired” call for service in the 5400 block of Richenbacher Avenue. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]
Local Businesses Hopeful for Holiday Shopping Season — “Victoria Vergason, owner of a vintage barware store, says holiday shoppers this season could make or break some small businesses. ‘[It] is a very, very critical time for small businesses to be able to make their profits and run into the next year,’ she said.” [WUSA9]
PNC Looking for New Potomac Yard Branch Manager — “As a Branch Manager within PNC’s Retail organization, you will be based in Alexandria, VA at the Potomac Yards @ Giant branch.” [PNC]
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
With a bit of luck, Alexandria Health Director Stephen Haering said the city could start to get its hands on a vaccine by December.
A limited supply of vaccine and a high public demand has led to national, state, and local plans on determining who gets the vaccine, when, and how. Haering outlined some of the plans for Alexandria at a City Council meeting last night.
“We will be required to vaccinate certain persons first,” Haering said. “Our current understanding is [to prioritize] healthcare workers in long-term care facilities and hospitals… and those persons who live in long term care facilities and congregate settings.”
Haering said other recipients of the first phase will be essential workers — like first responders and “workers that keep government working and society intact” — and adults at high risk — like those over 65-years old and those with underlying medical conditions.
“We’re looking at those first phases being available as early as sometime in December,” Haering said. “We don’t know exactly if that will come through Health Department or through pharmacies. Large pharmaceutical chains have an arrangement to vaccinate long term care facilities directly. State health will be involved with coordinating that. We’ve been coordinating and planning on helping with vaccination there in case that falls through.”
Haering said that accelerated testing and vaccine production has allowed for some quick turnaround distribution.
“To tell you the process here: what they are doing, and one of the reasons they’ve been able to fast track this vaccine, is to combined some of the phases they typically do sequentially they are doing simultaneously,” Haering said. “Phase 2 trials are typically done for safety, and phase 3 is for safety and effectiveness, and they’re able to combine those. During phase 3 they actually start producing the vaccine. Typically a company would not do that because of the financial risk; you want to make sure it’s effective before you start producing it.”
Haering said the 90% effectiveness shown in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is promising. If both vaccines come to Alexandria, Haering said it will be important for those who get one vaccine to continue their booster shots with the same program. The Health Department is looking into putting together colored cards or other memory tools to help locals remember which shot they started with.
The vaccine can’t come soon enough for Alexandria, where cases are on the rise again.
“Our seven day moving average is over 46,” Haering said. “It was 47 or so at the end of April and in May. This is the highest it’s been since then. Our seven day moving average was in the teens in July through November, but it’s been going up statewide and nationally.”
Haering said hospitalizations are on the rise as well. Fatalities have not increased substantially, but Haering said the concern is that those could follow the increase in cases after two to four weeks. Of particular concern is the increase of cases in long-term care facilities, where the majority of the city’s deaths have been.
Though a vaccine could be on the horizon, in the meantime, Haering reiterated earlier pleas to city residents not to travel or host large gatherings for the holidays.
Staff photo by James Cullum